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Irritable bowel syndrome or IBS as it is more commonly known is a problem with the gastrointestinal tract, where, as the name suggests, the bowel is irritated. It is a syndrome, which is a group of symptoms, and not a single issue. The exact cause is still not known, but most people with IBS have higher levels of stress, anxiety, and depression. It is therefore considered a psychosomatic condition, where an unhealthy state of mind is reflected in body symptoms.
Unani also refers to IBS as nervous indigestion, intestinal neurosis, and irritable colon.
- These are worsened when there is an actual episode, which is usually during increased stress levels.
- Altered bowel movement (violent episodes of diarrhoea) alternating with constipation
- Severe stomach cramps, which is worsened with eating and better after passing stools
- Bloated feeling (stomach full of gas)
- Change in stool (flat ribbon stools or pencil stools)
- Feeling of incomplete stool emptying
- General fatigue and malaise
Diagnosis is confirmed with a combination of symptoms, clinical exam, and investigations including stool tests. The two common findings are altered intestinal motility and increased visceral perception to stimulus.
If a patient presents with constipation, the bowel motility is reduced, and in those presenting with diarrhoea, the movement of food through the colon is very rapid.
While there are no sure remedies for IBS in allopathy, natural medicine systems like Unani have effective remedies. Both single and compound drugs are tried, and in most studies, the results have been very encouraging. The commonly used products are listed below.
- Bel (Aegle marmelos): The fruit and leaves of bel are known for their stomach-friendly properties. It is useful in chronic diarrhoea conditions and also during typhoid. Bel juice is available for ready use. Also, the leaves can be boiled in water, and this extract can be stored and consumed over a period of time.
- Cumin seeds (Cuminum cyminum): This common ingredient in most curries does wonders for the stomach. It is very friendly on the stomach and soothes the stomach lining. It reduces irritation and eases bowel movement. In addition to regular usage, when IBS flares up, cumin seeds can be boiled in water, and this can be cooled and stored for use over a period of time.
- Amla (gooseberry) (Embilica Oficinalis): This again is useful in treating diarrhoea and has a cooling and soothing effect on the stomach. This is used in multiple forms – raw gooseberry, boiled, and even juice forms.
These are used either as a single agent or as compound agents for treating IBS. Unani also believes that controlling anxiety and emotional symptoms can help in avoiding flare-ups of IBS. If you wish to discuss about any specific problem, you can ask a free question.