Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Holistic Solutions for Relief and Recovery

I suffered from Irritable Bowel Syndrome between the ages of 4 and 26 years of age.

Today, I consider myself completely recovered from of this common condition.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is defined as a « functional » illness according to the allopathic, or conventional, medical model. Concretely, IBS is a condition that is expressed as a variety of dysfunctional or negative symptoms in response to different stimuli ( food, environmental, emotional, psychological). These symptoms vary in their intensity and duration and are often unpredictable and inconsistent in nature.


-    Lower, middle or upper abdominal cramps

-    Type: sporadic, deep, constant, resembling « knives », « needles », « throbbing »

-    Duration: 5 minutes to several hours

-    Headaches : temple, between the eyebrows, base of the skull, sinus or global

-    Type: shooting, throbbing, stabbing

-    Duration: 10 minutes to full day, constant or intermittent

-    Nausea : most commonly in the morning or after meals

-    Skin Irritations : eczema, general itching

-    Feeling of « water under the skin »

-    Alternating between constipation and diarrhea

-    Abdominal pain relieved after a bowel movement

-    Gas, bloating

-    Multiple food intolerances

-    General fatigue

-    Cellular fatigue ( low endurance)

-    Low vitality

-    Muscle fatigue

-    Lack of concentration, « brain fog »

-    Mood swings

Symptoms can appear:

-    before a meal ( more common in chronic conditions)

-    during a meal or stressful situation

-    between 10 minutes and 3 days after interaction with irritating stimulus

Symptoms can worsen in the presence of:

-    strong emotions

-    psychological trauma

-    physical trauma

-    environmental irritation (chemical, sound, visual, etc)

-    irritating food substances





-    Eliminate all hyperallergenic foods : begin with Group I

-    Eliminate all foods in Groups 2-4 if symptoms persist after eliminating foods in Group I

-    Digestive symptoms should improve after 7-10 days

-    Skin irritations should improve after 4 weeks

-    Constipation/diarrhea should improve after 6 weeks

-    Global symptoms should improve after 90 days

-    In order to identify intolerant foods, the food substance needs to be eliminated for a minimum of 6 weeks before reintroduction is attempted.


GROUP I: coffee, tea, chocolate, white sugar, alcohol, white vinegar, table salt, tobacco, artificial flavours and colours, artificial sweeteners, herbicides, pesticides, food additives


GROUP II: brewers yeast, wheat, peanuts, brown sugar, cow milk products, pork, sulphites, red/wine/balsamic vinegar


GROUP III: gluten, tomatoes, nutritional yeast, mushrooms, soya (milk, tofu, lecithin), carageenan.


GROUP IV*: chicken eggs, turkey, beef, seafood, lemon, citrus, strawberries, white potato, white rice, oats, grapes, cherries, green peppers, walnuts, cashews, brazil nuts, coconut, molasses, garlic, onions


*May include a broad variety of other foods. An intolerance test performed by a nutritionist or naturopath specialized in food intolerances/allergies is recommended in order to identify specific food intolerances.



Eat 100% organic as much as possible, especially green leafy    vegetables and fruit



-    Reduce the consumption of cabbage and Brussel Sprouts

-    Focus on green leafy vegetables, herbs, root vegetables and vegetables with a high water content (zucchini, fennel, cucumber, bok choy, etc)

-    Lightly steam or sauté vegetables before eating, focus on warm and cooked foods

-    Serve your vegetables with a bit of unrefined oil (coconut oil, ghee: clarified butter, olive oil, sunflower oil, untoasted sesame oil, flax oil)



-    Pears, papaya and grapes help with constipation

-    Berries, mangoes and ripe bananas are easy to digest

-    Pineapples may help to stimulate digestive juices

-    Dried fruit must be sulphite-free and soaked in water before eating

-    Raw apples aggravate gaz



-    Raw legumes must be soaked in room temperature water 24 hours before cooking

-    Cook legumes with lots of water, fennel seeds, fresh ginger and kombu

-    Mung beans, split lentils, beluga lentils and split peas are easiest to digest

-    Chick peas and other beans may be too fibrous and irritating to stomach and intestinal linings.



Consume 1/2 C of these foods with meals, especially when eating fat or animal protein


-    Sauerkraut and other fermented vegetables (prepared without vinegar)

-    Miso (non-GMO)

-    Kefir ( water based or milk based* if not intolerant to dairy products)

-    *contains very little or no lactose due to fermentation process

-    Pickles, kimchi and kombucha may be irritating to sensitive intestines



-    Raw Fruit: OK alone or with avocado, soaked nuts and seeds , seaweed, and/or unpasteurized cheese/kefir

-    Grains: OK with all vegetables, eggs, seaweed, sprouted nuts and seeds, unpasteurized cheese/kefir

-    Legumes: OK with all vegetables, seaweed, unpasteurized cheese/kefir, sprouted nuts and seeds

-    Meat/Poultry/Fish/Seafood: OK with non-starchy vegetables (lettuce, zucchini, fennel etc.), seaweed



-    Grains and legumes (for very sensitive stomachs)

-    Cheese with meat/poultry/fish

-    Meat/Poultry/Fish/Seafood with starchy vegetables (potatoes) or grains

-    Meat/Poultry/Fish/Seafood with other Meat/Poultry/Fish/Seafood



-    Room Temperature Filtered water ( ceramic filters, double carbon filters, NOT BRITA)

-    Herbal Teas: ginger, liquorice, peppermint, lavender, camomile, holy basil, nettle, flowering oats, lemon balm

-    Unpasteurized apple juice with aloe vera gel/juice

-    Hot water with lemon ( excellent first thing in the morning)

-    Coconut water ( electrolyte rich and hydrating)




   KUZU PUDDING : excellent for constipation, diarrhea and cramps

-    1-2 Tbsp Kuzu ( Japanese arrowroot)

-    1 C unpasteurized apple/berry juice

-    1 Tbsp tahini

    In a small saucepan dissolve the kuzu in the apple/berry juice

    Slowly heat or low temperature, stirring consistently until the liquid    

    thickens into a pudding like consistency

    Remove from heat and add the tahini


   WAKAME SALAD : excellent for nausea and fatigue

-    Wakame

-    1-2 Tbsp flax seed oil

-    Lemon

    Rehydrate wakame in room temperature filtered water

    Rinse wakame several times

    Add oil and lemon


   DAHL recipe in Jacynthes book «Vive la détox gourmande »  is an excellent remedy for helping to repair the cells of the stomach lining as well as assist in clearing out toxins due to its soluble fibre, mineral and phytonutrient content. Add miso paste before eating in order to support a healthy intestinal flora and facilitate digestion.


   DATE TEA: excellent for constipation

-    3-6 Medjool dates

-    1-2 C filtered water

    Place the water and dates into a small pot or saucepan and bring  

     the water to a boil.

    Simmer for 10-15 minutes.

    Drink « tea » throughout the day and eat the dates afterwards.

    OPTION, add lemon ( in the case of nausea)







-    The atmosphere and environment at meal times must be calm and neutral (non-emotional)

-    Do not eat in front of or near a television or computer

-    Sit down before eating

-    Take 5 conscience, belly breaths before and after meals

-    Chew! Food should be a paste before swallowing.

-    Take a full breath between mouthfuls

-    Do not drink more than 250mL liquid during meals and never anything cold

-    Stop eating when you are 80% full and wait 15 minutes before eating more.




-    Several small meals throughout the day

-    Smaller meals are less work for the stomach and less stressful for mind and body

-    Smoothies are an excellent option, as they are partially digested and nutrient dense

-    Fresh pressed juices are an excellent source of bioavailable nutrients (dont forget to consume with a small amount of unrefined oil - 1 Tbsp of coconut, pumpkin, hemp or flax seed oil)

-    « Superfoods », such as chlorophyll, bee pollen, maca, chlorella and goji berries are excellent additions for individuals with cellular deficiencies and malnutrition due to chronic IBS.




-    Intestinal massages are very helpful (recommended morning and evening)

-    Macadamia oil is very hydrating

-    Breath of Fire or Kapalabhatit helps to stimulate circulation in the abdomen as well as improves mood

-    Light exercise: walking, swimming ( in salt or Bromine pools), gentle cycling

-    Gentle musculation using ones own body weight (calisthenics), pilates

-    Slight stretching: yoga

-    Somatic work : Feldenkreis, Kinegym

-    Energetic work : Qi-gong, Tai Chi

-    Meditation at the beginning and end of the day

-    Mindfulness between meetings and daily events ( deep breathing, body awareness)



-    Eliminate all chemical cleaning and beauty products

-    Clean carpets and sweep regularly

-    Place plants in living room, bedroom and kitchen




For individuals living with Irritable Bowel Syndrome, it is crucial to address any fear that becomes associated with food and eating. In order for your body to reestablish an inner harmony, the relationship with food and eating must be managed with compassion, love and patience.


Imagine that your body is a four year old child. He/she is doing the best they can, he/she is tired, frustrated and afraid of pain and hunger. In order to encourage her/him to relax, you have to accept and believe in change and in order to accomplish this a soft and gentle approach must be used; no judgement and criticism can exist. Before each meal, speak to your body and encourage your body. Communicate your compassion, trust and belief in its ability to digest the food you are about to eat. Reassure your body it can and will efficiently assimilate the nutrients you consume. Internally verbalize that this food is safe and that you accept it with trust and love.


If you are in a crisis, speak to your body with acceptance and reassurance, remind it that the pain will eventually pass, that everything will be alright, that it has the ability to heal and overcome the present discomfort. Breath deeply through and with the pain and do everything necessary to comfort yourself: stay in bed, rock back and forth, roll on the ground, laugh, cry, whatever is needed to regulate the pain. Everything must be done with an acceptance, compassion and loving kindness for your body and mind.


DISCLAIMER: These recommendations are not intended to serve as a diagnostic tool or to treat illness.


Reference: « Eating Alive » John Matsen, ND