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Irritable bowel syndrome is a long-term condition of the digestive tract characterised by constipation, diarrhoea and abdominal cramps. The symptoms may come and go and vary in intensity. 

A definitive cause for irritable bowel syndrome is not yet determined, but it is often linked with poor dietary habits, lifestyle, stress, infections and a family history of irritable bowel syndrome. An abnormal communication between the nervous system and the bowel muscles is also pointed as a probable cause for irritable bowel syndrome. 

Irritable bowel syndrome is mostly treated through lifestyle and dietary changes. Intake of proper amount of fiber can help in managing the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. A low fermenting carbohydrate diet, also known as a low FODMAP diet, is also advised in certain cases. 

Homeopathic medicines like argentum nitricum, colocynthis, lycopodium, podophyllum and sulphur, among others, have been tried with impressive outcomes in irritable bowel syndrome.

There are two fundamental principles of homeopathy:

  • Like cures like: This principle states that a homeopathic medication prescribed to an individual for a set of symptoms is made from the same substance which can cause similar symptoms in a healthy person when given in large amounts.
  • Least amount required: This principle states that homeopathic medications are highly diluted and potentised substances prescribed in the least amount to effect the needed response. More concentrated forms of the substance may result in worsening of the condition and is ill-advised.

Since these principles are diligently applied, side effects of homeopathic medicines are generally absent or, if present, are negligible.

  1. Homeopathic medicines for irritable bowel syndrome
  2. Dietary and lifestyle changes for a patient with irritable bowel syndrome as per homeopathy
  3. How effective are homeopathic medicines and treatments for irritable bowel syndrome
  4. Side effects and risks of homeopathic medicine and treatments for irritable bowel syndrome
  5. Takeaway
  • Aloe
    Common Name:
    Aloe socotrina
    Symptoms: Aloe is often prescribed to improve bowel movements. It also helps improve the following symptoms:

    • Urgency to pass stool
    • Bloating and fullness
    • Abdominal cramping before and while passing stool
    • Strong urge to pass stools after eating or drinking
    • Watery, bright yellowish diarrhoea early in the morning

Individuals complain of aggravation of symptoms in the morning. 

  • Antimonium Crudum
    Common Name:
    Black sulphide of antimony
    Symptoms: Antimonium crudum is a well-known medication for constipation and disorders of the intestines. It helps relieve the following symptoms:

    • Discharge of mucus in stool
    • Watery diarrhoea
    • Alternating diarrhoea and constipation, especially in the elderly
    • Sudden urgency to pass stool
    • Loose stool on consumption of sour drinks or acidic food like vinegar

The condition of the individual worsens on consumption of wine or acidic products. Being in the open air helps improve the symptoms. 

  • Argentum Nitricum
    Common Name:
    Nitrate of silver
    Symptoms: Argentum nitricum is prescribed to individuals who are expressive, spontaneous and may have a fear of being confined. The individuals also have a marked aversion to heat. Common symptoms that indicate a need for argentum nitricum are:

    • Bloating
    • Urgency to pass stool after eating or drinking
    • Watery stool
    • Increased diarrhoea after consumption of sweets
    • Greenish stool with traces of mucus

Patient’s condition worsens at night, in warm weather, and after consumption of sweets and he/she finds temporary relief on spending time in open air. 

  • Arsenicum Album
    Common Name:
    Arsenious acid
    Symptoms: Arsenicum album is prescribed to people who are tidy and quick-footed, with an anxious mental state. These people show the following symptoms:

    • Excessive straining to pass stool 
    • Small, dark-coloured stool
    • Urgency to pass stool after eating or drinking
    • Dysentery, with passing of blood in stool

Wet and cold weather, cold drinks or food result in worsening of the condition, while the application of heat provides relief. The condition of the individual also gets worse after midnight.

  • Asa Foetida
    Common Name:
    Gum of the stinkasand
    Symptoms: Erratic and occasional contraction of the stomach accompanied by the passing of gas (flatulence) is the most marked symptom that responds to asa foetida. Other common symptoms that can be managed with this remedy are:

    • Profuse stools, both watery and thick
    • Abdominal pain
    • Diarrhoea
    • Offensive stool
    • Painful sensation in the perineum (the region in between the anus and the genitals)

Symptoms are worse in warm weather and at night. Symptoms improve in open air.

  • Colocynthis
    Common Name:
    Bitter apple
    Symptoms: An extreme pain in the abdomen which is eased with bending, twisting or any kind of motion is a characteristic symptom that responds to this medicine. It also helps relieve other symptoms like:

    • Greenish yellow, offensive stool
    • Constipation with a feeling as if stones are being grounded in the abdomen
    • Pain while passing stool
    • Slimy diarrhoea

Symptoms get worse when the patient is angry or discontent and get better with warmth.

  • Ignatia Amara
    Common Name:
    St. Ignatius’ bean
    Symptoms: Ignatia amara is prescribed to individuals who experience difficulty in passing stools along with anal colic. Other symptoms shown by such individuals include:

    • Ineffectual urges to pass stool
    • Constipation after taking cold food or drink
    • Rumbling in the abdomen with pain in the upper abdomen 
    • Hard stools which are difficult to pass and result in great exhaustion
    • Watery diarrhoea with mucus discharge

Symptoms are more troublesome in the mornings, after hard drinks and smoking. All complaints get better after meals.

  • Lilium Tigrinum
    Common Name:
    Tiger lily
    Symptoms: Lilium tigrinum is native to China and Japan and is extensively used for conditions specific to women. It also helps relieve the following symptoms in patients with irritable bowel syndrome:

    • Dark-coloured, loose stool
    • Feeling of pressure around the anus, with a constant desire to pass stool
    • Pain after passage of stool
    • Diarrhoea in the morning
    • Strong uncontrollable urge to pass stool

All complaints worsen during the morning and after eating. 

  • Lycopodium Clavatum
    Common Name:
    Club moss
    Symptoms: This remedy is prescribed in cases of constipation and other conditions related to bowel movements. Symptoms which indicate a need for lycopodium clavatum are:

    • Small and hard stool
    • Ineffectual desire to pass stool
    • Haemorrhage even when passing soft stools

Warm climate results in aggravation of symptoms, while a drop in temperature or slight activity alleviates the pain. 

  • Natrium Carbonicum
    Common Name:
    Carbonate of sodium
    Symptoms: Natrium carbonicum is prescribed to stimulate metabolic functions. Symptoms that respond well to natrium are:

    • Aversion to milk and diarrhoea on consumption of milk
    • Weak digestion leading to diarrhoea
    • Yellow discharge like orange pulp in stool
    • Sudden urgency to pass stool

Exposure to heat and sun along with any mental exertion lead to worsening of the condition but the patient feels better on moving about. 

  • Nux Vomica
    Common Name:
    Poison nut
    Symptoms: Nux vomica is generally prescribed to thin, active individuals who show the following symptoms:

    • Alternating diarrhoea with constipation
    • Frequent ineffectual desire to pass stool
    • Small quantity of stool passed each time, with a feeling of incomplete emptying
    • Constipation
    • Jaundice in some cases

Symptoms worsen in dry weather and in the morning. Nux vomica is advised to be taken during the evening hours when it is the most active.

  • Pulsatilla Pratensis
    Common Name:
    Wind flower
    Symptoms: Pulsatilla pratensis is prescribed to individuals who are sensitive and cry readily while talking. It is indicated in conditions affecting the mucous membranes (inner lining of certain organs) and is more commonly prescribed in women. It helps relieve the following symptoms:

    • Presence of mucus and blood in stool
    • Watery stool
    • Burning sensation like chillies after passing stool
    • Variable consistency of stool

Fat-rich food and warm weather result in worsening of the condition. On the other hand, cold applications and cold weather help relieve the symptoms.

  • Sulphur
    Common Name:
    Sublimated sulphur
    Symptoms: Sulphur is prescribed in conditions when other medicines fail. It helps manage the following symptoms:

    • Constipation
    • Pain in the tailbone
    • Diarrhoea after nightfall accompanied by vomiting
    • Extreme pain and weakness after diarrhoea
    • Individuals have sudden urges to pass stool while lying in bed or sleeping, with rumbling and pain in the abdomen. 

Patient’s condition worsens during the night and before dawn and improves on lying on the right side and in dry and warm weather.

Changes in bowel movements is a common complaint that affects many individuals and causes great discomfort and unease in their day-to-day functioning. Although irritable bowel syndrome has no clear cause, an unhealthy lifestyle and poor dietary habits have been implicated as common triggers. 

So, physicians typically recommend incorporating healthier foods in the diet with a lot of fibre, or even a low FODMAP diet. Here are some other do’s and don’ts that most homeopathic doctors ask their patients to keep in mind:

Do’s: 

  • Keep your surroundings clean and tidy.
  • Temperature and other external factors in the room must be maintained as per the liking of the affected individual. 
  • Personal hygiene should be a priority.

Don’ts: 

  • Consumption of alcohol and tobacco during the treatment must be avoided. Strong caffeinated beverages must also be avoided as they interfere with the working of homeopathic medicines.
  • Do not consume sour and spicy foods as they are a major hindrance to the working of the homeopathic remedies and can result in worsening of the patient’s condition.
  • Avoid strenuous tasks and exercises. 
  • Avoid food products which trigger an urgency to pass stool. 

Irritable bowel syndrome is a common condition affecting a large number of people around the globe, with women being affected twice as often as men. As there is no specific treatment available for the condition, people seek alternative systems of medicine to get relief. Homeopathy has an array of remedies, which are effective in dealing with the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.

According to a case study documented in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, homeopathic remedies made from the human gut flora are effective in the management of bowel problems like constipation and diarrhoea. For the study, 28 patients with complaints of diarrhoea and constipation were given different homeopathic pills as per their condition. Results were evaluated after a month of the treatment and it was found that 26% of the patients showed major improvement and around 70% showed a good amount of improvement in symptoms.

More case studies published by the British homeopathic association indicate that homeopathic remedies like sulphur, colocynth, arsenicum album and lycopodium have been used successfully to treat irritable bowel syndrome, based on the totality of the patient’s symptoms.

A pilot study conducted by the Homeopathy Research Institute at the Barnsley Hospital, NHS Foundation, found that homeopathic medicines do have a therapeutic effect which is more than just supportive consultations. For the study, 100 patients with irritable bowel syndrome were either given homeopathic remedies or supportive listening therapy along with conventional medicine. The group that received homeoapthic medicines showed more improvement in symptoms than the group with supportive listening therapy. No adverse effects were reported by any participants, showing the safety and efficacy of individualized homeopathic treatment in irritable bowel syndrome. 

Homeopathic doctors carefully select the aptest remedy for every patient after an extensive examination of the individual’s present and past history, family history. The remedies cater to both the physical and mental appearance of the patient along with their symptoms. So, they don’t usually have any adverse effects. 

Additionally, homeopathic remedies are administered in highly diluted doses, which further reduce the chances of allergic reactions and toxic effects.

Irritable bowel syndrome is a common condition that can cause intense abdominal discomfort. Conventional treatment includes management of symptoms with lifestyle and dietary changes. Homeopathic treatment of irritable bowel syndrome focusses on improving the overall health of the individual along with symptomatic management.

Controlled studies and treatments carried out by practising homeopathic physicians indicate that homeopathy is a very effective and minimally intrusive form of treatment with negligible shortcomings and side effects. Homeopathy can be used to treat irritable bowel syndrome either as a stand-alone therapy or in conjunction with conventional medicines. 

References

  1. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases [internet]: US Department of Health and Human Services; Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  2. Better health channel. Department of Health and Human Services [internet]. State government of Victoria; Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  3. American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons [Internet] Columbus, Ohio; Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
  4. Michigan Medicine: University of Michigan [internet]; Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  5. British Homeopathic Association. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). London; [Internet]
  6. William Boericke. Homoeopathic Materia Medica. Kessinger Publishing: Médi-T 1999, Volume 1

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