Also known as functional or nervous diarrhoea, colon or vegetative neurosis, or mucous colitis; main symptoms are Constipation and Diarrhoea, turn and turn about, occasional cramping pains in lower abdomen, and sometimes pain on defecating. Muscular contraction in the colon or ileum is uncoordinated and spasmodic, though not for any reason which can be detected by X-rays or endoscopy; causes are as likely to be psychological - family, marital, or work problems, Cancer Phobia, in fact Stress in general - as dietary.
However, a low-fibre diet, or intolerance to wheat, corn, dairy products, citrus fruit, tea, coffee, apples, pears, and salads - in that order- is sometimes the culprit (see food Allergy). Less often, spasms can be triggered off by a bowel infection, bowel parasites (Threadworms, tapeworms, amoebae, etc.), overgrowth of bowel flora, Candidiasis, spinal maladjustment, or excessive use of laxatives. Twice as many women are affected as men.
The diagnosis is mainly made by excluding other conditions, but if the symptoms mentioned above are accompanied by persistent Weight Loss, consult your doctor if there is no improvement in 48 hours; if there is also Fever or blood in faeces, consult your doctor if there is no improvement in 12 hours. Prompt investigation is especially important in people over 50, if only to rule out Cancer. Anti-spasmodic drugs may be prescribed, and also a high-fibre diet (although bran may aggravate problems if there is intolerance to wheat).
The homeopathic approach to irritable vowel syndrome is constitutional, although the remedies given below may be tried first. The remedies listed under Abdominal Pain and Diarrhoea would also be appropriate.
Specific remedies to be given 4 times daily for up to 14 days
- Great flatulence, constipation alternating with diarrhoea, pain in upper left abdomen, mucus in stools, fluttery, tense feeling in stomach Argentum nit. 6c
- Burning pains in abdomen, great thirst, nausea and vomiting, person also has cystitis Cantharis 6c
- Watery stools, tearing pains, and nausea made worse by smell of food Colchicum 6c
- Griping pains relieved by doubling up or pressing on abdomen, attack associated with or brought on by anger Colocynth 6c
Self-help: If stress is the problem, try relaxation techniques. Try increasing fluid, stopping smoking, reducing beer and red wine, cutting down chewing gum, eating regularly and increasing exercise. If a particular food is suspect, eliminate it from your diet for 4 days, then reintroduce it and see if problems recur. If the results are inconclusive, consult a dietary therapist. If problem is due to a trapped spinal nerve, consult a physiotherapist, chiropractor, or osteopath. Try the Colon Diet.