Irritable Bowel Syndrome and the two inflammatory bowel diseases of Crohn’s and Colitis (IBD) share some of the same symptoms: pain, cramping, bloating, urgency, gas, even anxiety and depression. And, of course, a change in bowel habits. So is there one natural treatment that is best for all three of them?
Before answering that question, it will help to look at the differences between IBS and IBD.
First of all, as its name reveals, Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a syndrome rather than a disease. Even though IBS can be extremely painful and debilitating, the bowel itself is not damaged. Diagnostic tests typically show no sign of disease or inflammation. However, people with IBS have usually experienced some kind of trauma, whether physical or emotional. We’ll look at why this is important to choosing the best natural treatment later in the article.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease shows definite injury to the digestive tract. Inflammation is a sign that something is wrong in the body. With Colitis, the inflammation is usually confined to the colon and rectum, while in Crohn’s Disease, the inflammation can spread all the way up the intestines to the stomach and sometimes to the esophagus and mouth.
Conventional medicine seems to be better at diagnosing IBS and IBD than treating it, and believes the cause of IBS, Crohn’s and Colitis is unknown. There is no single drug or surgery that has proven to be the final answer for these health problems.
The most helpful treatment for Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Crohn’s and Colitis takes the whole person into account. This approach recognizes that your digestive system is affected by food, stress, chemical toxins, your lifestyle habits, your emotional background, and your own natural ability to heal.
In fact, trauma researchers, including Robert Scaer MD and David Berceli PhD, have clearly linked IBS and trauma. It’s no secret that many war veterans have Irritable Bowel Syndrome. These people suffer from stored trauma reactions that have not been fully processed through the mind and body systems.
But plenty of civilians experience trauma as well. It can be from physical causes such as a car accident, house fire, or breaking your leg while skiing. Or from emotional causes like bullying, verbal abuse, or neglect. Or combination of both, as when people go through a plane crash or natural disaster.
Trauma can be dealt with in a fairly short period of time (weeks rather than years) with methods including Gary Craig’s Emotional Freedom Technique® which is a highly effective form of acupressure tapping, Peter Levine’s Somatic Experiencing, or David Berceli’s Trauma Release Exercises. Dr Scaer believes that unreleased trauma is the primary cause of IBS. Once the trauma is cleared, the body is no longer triggered to react with irritable bowel symptoms.
While people with Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis may have emotional or physical trauma factors, it’s vital to look at diet and exposure to chemical toxins. Removing wheat, sugar and other grains from the diet or using Elaine Gottschall’s Specific Carbohydrate Diet is extremely helpful for these two inflammatory bowel diseases.
In his book, Dangerous Grains, Dr James Braly links gluten cereal grains to both IBD and IBS (along with a shocking list of other health problems), although not everyone with Irritable Bowel Syndrome is grain-sensitive. It’s important to find out if you are, as some people with IBS can tolerate grains and some can’t.
So what is the best natural treatment for IBS, Crohn’s and Colitis? A combination of dealing with stress and trauma, choosing the right diet, and getting toxic chemicals out of the home environment can make the healing difference.