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Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

woman with irritable bowel syndrome IBS
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)?

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) used to be referred to as having a nervous stomach. People with irritable bowel syndrome have a variety of digestive disorders that have been determined to not be the result of Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis, or colon cancer and so they get diagnosed with the catch-all diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome.  

Digestive disorders like lactose intolerance, diverticulosis, Crohn’s, and colon cancer can have similar symptoms as IBS, so it is important to have a complete evaluation by your naturopathic doctor to determine if what you have is IBS.

What are the symptoms of IBS?

IBS symptoms include:

  • Abdominal pain, discomfort and bloating
  • Constipation and/or diarrhea
  • Gas/flatulence
  • Nausea
  • Low appetite
  • Anxiety or depression
  • Painful bowel movements

What Causes Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)?

The exact causes of IBS are not yet determined. IBS may be caused by:

  • Multiple food sensitivities and/or intolerances, these are best determined either by a strict elimination diet or by food allergy blood testing for IgG and IgA antibodies
  • Inadequate nutrition, especially the consumption of large amounts of highly refined, sugary, low-fibre foods
  • High levels of stress
  • Lack of digestive enzymes or stomach acid
  • Not enough of the good bacteria needed for intestinal health or overgrowth of harmful bacteria or yeast
  • Lack of exercise

What is the Natural Treatment for IBS?

Since there are multiple possible causes of IBS, our naturopathic doctor will devise a program that is individualized to you – there is no “one-size fits all” solution.

  • Food Sensitivity Testing: Through our ND you can access the most sensitive and scientific testing for up to 184 potential food allergens.
  • Remove what is damaging the digestive tract: Our naturopath can guide you through cleansing your digestive tract of harmful bacteria and yeast and restoring the beneficial bacteria. Our cleanses don’t involve harmful laxative herbs or a need to be close to a washroom.  Most health food store GI cleanses do not effectively remove harmful bacteria or yeast, at least not for very long.
  • Healing your digestive tract: Your gastrointestinal tract can be healed to eliminate your IBS symptoms and increase nutrient absorption and immune system health.
  • Restore the normal production of digestive enzymes and stomach acid
  • Diet: Customized dietary recommendations to avoid foods that promote an unhealthy digestive tract. 

Naturopathic Treatment for Digestive Problems

Other digestive problems that your naturopathic doctor can help treat through a similar root cause approach include:

* Indigestion, bloating
* Heartburn
* Constipation, diarrhea
* Candida
* Crohn’s Disease
* Ulcerative Colitis
* Gastroesophageal reflux (GERD)
* Stomach/Intestinal Ulcers
* Hemorrhoids
* Mouth canker sores
* Colon Cancer
* Poor fat digestion/fat malabsorption

By Dr. Pamela Frank, Naturopathic Doctor, updated Feb. 22, 2022

Natural Treatment for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS): Research

This is just a sample of the research that supports our naturopathic treatment for IBS, our naturopathic doctors have many other options:


Chen C, Tao C, Liu Z, Lu M, Pan Q, Zheng L, Li Q, Song Z, Fichna J. A randomized clinical trial of berberine hydrochloride in patients with diarrhea-predominant irritable bowel syndrome. Phytother Res. 2015; 29(11):1822-7.

Peppermint Oil:

Enck P, Junne F, Klosterhalfen S, Zipfel S, Martens U. Therapy options in irritable bowel syndrome. Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2010; 22(12):1402-11.
● Analysis of 121 IBS trials finds the highest efficacy for peppermint oil, followed by psychotherapeutic and psychopharmacological interventions and probiotics.

Low FODMAP Diet:

Eswaran S, Chey W, Han-Markey T, Ball S, Jackson K. A randomized controlled trial comparing the low FODMAP diet vs. modified NICE guidelines in US adults with IBS-D. Am J Gastroenterol. 2016;
● This study found that a low FODMAP diet (a diet low in fermentable oligo-, di-, and
monosaccharide polyols) improved average daily scores of abdominal pain, bloating, stool
consistency/urgency/frequency in 52% of individuals with IBS-D, compared with 41% of
individuals in the mNICE group.

Bifidobacterium longum:

Pinto-Sanchez MI, Hall GB, Ghajar K, Nardelli A, Bolino C, Lau JT, Martin FP, Cominetti O, Welsh C, Rieder A, Traynor J, Gregory C, De Palma G, Pigrau M, Ford AC, Macri J, Berger B, Bergonselli G, Surette
MG, Collins SM, Moayyedi P, Bercik P. Probiotic Bifidobacterium longum NCC3001 reduces
depression scores and alters brain activity: a pilot study in patients with irritable bowel
syndrome. Gastroenterology. 2017; 153(2):448-459.
● Probiotic Bifidobacterium longum NCC3001 was associated with a reduction in depression
scores and improves the quality of life after 6 weeks of treatment. Improvements were associated with changes in brain activation patterns, particularly reducing responses to negative emotional stimuli in the limbic system.

Peppermint Oil:

Ruepert L, Quartero AO, de Wit NJ, van der Heijden GJ, Rubin G, Muris JW. Bulking agents,
antispasmodics, and antidepressants for the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome. Cochrane
Database Syst Rev. 2011; (8):CD003460. Doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD003460.pub3.
● Peppermint oil, included as one of the antispasmodics in this MA and SR, was found to be effective in the treatment of IBS. Bulking agents were not significantly effective. Other effective therapies included antidepressants (SSRIs and TCAs).

Essential Oils of Peppermint, Spearmint, Lemon Balm and Coriander:

Thompson A, Meah D, Ahmed N, Conniff-Jenkins R, Chileshe E, Phillips CO, Claypole TC, Forman DW, Row PE. Comparison of the antibacterial activity of essential oils and extracts of medicinal and culinary herbs to investigate potential new treatments for irritable bowel syndrome. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2013; 13:338.
● Peppermint, spearmint, lemon balm, and coriander seed oils were found to be the most potent inhibitors of bacterial growth, with peppermint and coriander seed oils being more potent than the antibiotic rifaximin


Probiotics have been found to help irritable bowel-related diarrhea and pain, chemotherapy- and radiation-induced diarrhea, constipation, immunity, allergies, and acne. Source: Complementary Prescriptions Journal, Vol.26, Issue 12, Dec. 2012

Supplementation with Lactobacillus reuterii for a period of 8 weeks was found to increase bowel movements in infants at least 6 months of age diagnosed with functional chronic constipation. Source: J Pediatr, 2010 June 12

Probiotic supplementation was found to be a safe and effective treatment of Clostridium difficile-associated diarrhea, as well as reduce the risk of CDAD by 64%. Source: Cochrane Database Syst Rev, 2013 May 31

Pregnant women with functional constipation received daily probiotics which increased frequency and significantly decreased abdominal pain and other symptoms.  Source: Nutr J. 2012 Oct 4;11(1):80.

A deficiency of bifidobacteria can cause chronic diarrhea, an increase of bacteria and toxins in the blood, and intestinal absorption disorders. Source: Complementary Prescriptions Journal, Vol.26, Issue 12, Dec. 2012


Ginger is not only an anti-inflammatory it also promotes better digestion and stimulates the part of the immune system responsible for antibody production. Source: Alberni Valley News, May 8, 2013.

GMO crops:

Eating genetically modified foods can lead to adverse reactions such as inflammatory bowel, indigestion, cramping and diarrhea, reflux, stomach aches, behavioral changes, and nondescript inflammatory responses. Source: Complementary Prescriptions Journal, Vol. 27 Issue 8, August 2013