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Herbal Remedies For Digestive Problems with Ciara O' Meara

Thursday, 29 November 2007

Today herbalist Ciara O'Meara is showing us herbal remedies for digestive problems with the focus on the most reoccurring irritation Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

Ciara O'Meara - Medical Herbalist
I have a long standing interest in natural medicine. From a young age I found myself allergic to antibiotics, this prompted a proactive approach to preventative medicine, ensuring that through diet and exercise I was always doing my best to stay healthy. I completed an honours Science degree in University College Dublin in 1997 followed by an MSc in Medical Genetics at Aberdeen University. I then spent a number of years working in the field of academic research in areas such as The Human Genome Project at Oxford University, UK, and on Cancer reseach at Cancer Research UK. It was during this time that I took up a yoga practice and further cultivated an interest in holistic medicine.
First hand experience of successfully using herbal medicine  prompted me to pursue an interest in the subject. I soon realised that this interest was part of a much broader, richer and complex area of natural medicine which required dedicted study to appreciate both its subtlties and power. To deepen my knowledge on the subject and aquire the ability to confidently use it as a health professional I completed a four year degree at Westminster University in London.
This University is a long established centre for excellence in the training of medical herbalists. Its facilities encompass a central London clinic for herbal medicine where members of the public can avail of treatment. This is where I completed 500 hours of clinical training as part of my degree, treating members of the public from young to old with a range of illnesses. This was an integral part of the educational programme, in the interests of maintaining a high level of safe practice. This training included differential diagnosis of illness up to a high standard of training clinically on par with that of a GP.

Ciara will give a broad overview of the various digestive problems that people experience. She'll be concentrating on Irritable Bowel Syndrome as it is the most recurrent but as she goes through the various herbal remedies she will also mention which of them would help if one was suffering from constipation or acid reflux.

About Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
IBS is a collection of different symptoms which make up the individuals triggers and presentation.

Symptoms can include the following:

. Abdominal pain, often relieved by passing wind or faeces
. Abdominal bloating
. Diarrhoea, constipation or alternation between both

Factors which are known to affect IBS sufferers

. Stress
. Anxiety
. Intolerance to certain foods (consider wheat, corn, dairy, coffee, tea, sugar, lactose, citrus fruits).
. Body reactions to food s which may be causing intolerance include sweating, palpitation, fatigue, urgent bowel movements.
. Family History

Useful pointers

. Many people who suffer with the diarrhoea form of IBS have been found to have certain dietary triggers, if you think this applies to you keep a symptom diary which records what you have eaten and how it affects you. You may see a pattern of a particular food which is aggravating your symptoms (See the list above)

. For some people high fibre in the form of insoluble fibre like e.g. Bran can be an aggravating factor, replace with more soluble fibre food sources like vegetables and fruit.


Slippery Elm powder

This is derived from the inner bark of the Slippery Elm tree found in the US.
It provides a directly soothing effect on the gastrointestinal system; it provides a protective healing barrier on the digestive mucus surfaces. It is both soothing to diarrhoea and helps to draw water into the bowel in cases of constipation. Can be taken by those who convalescing for its nutritive powers, particularly useful in this regard for both children and the elderly. .

Of use in acid reflux conditions, and also taken last thing at night to protect the stomach from the effects of excess acid.

To Prepare
. Take ½ to 1 teaspoon with all meals and between all meals for excess acid and reflux  until symptoms improve, then take with all meals
. For IBS take both with and between meals when symptoms are bad, this will help both constipation and diarrhoea

Hints: Can be taken mashed with a small amount of banana, in hot milk, cold milk, in a small amount of yoghurt.

Psyllium Husks

Psyllium husks are a natural bulking laxative this means they pull water in to the bowel and increase the volume of the stool. When they are soaked in water they become mucilaginous, this natural substance moves through the intestine usually also triggering muscular contractions, facilitating the movement of faeces out of the body.
It also be used for diarrhoea as it causes water to be pulled into the intestines, the effects is to slow down intestinal emptying were it is too quick, and the mucilage also soothes any inflammation on the surface of the bowel.

Also useful for occasional constipation. 2 teaspoons can be taken up to three times a day soaked in warm water.

To Prepare
. Add 2 teaspoons to a glass or warm water
. Leave for at least 30 mins
. Drink morning and evening, you can add juice for taste

This herb has proven to reduce the cramping or spasm associated with IBS. It relaxes the intestinal smooth muscle returning it to its normal relaxed state.

It can be taken as a tea, tincture, or as enteric coated capsules. We will be making a tea.

Referred to as "mother of the gut". Has many properties which can be used to calm and sooth the digestive tract. It relaxes spasm associated with cramping; it also reduces anxiety which can be a factor in the symptoms of IBS particularly in children. It can also facilitate expulsion of trapped wind in the stomach.

Can be taken as a tea, tincture or for very small children a tea added to bath water in the evenings.

Dandelion Root
Useful where there is a sluggish bowel. Dandelion root is a very gentle laxative. It works by stimulating the production of bile from the liver. Bile is the bodys natural laxative and also facilitates the breakdown of fats in the digestive system.

Dandelion root can also form a useful part of a gentle cleanse for the colon as part of a general detox. Dandelion root can form a natural caffeine alternative, roast dandelion root coffee is commercially available.

It can be taken as a tea, tincture or capsule.

Warming Digestive Tea

Fennel seed, which helps relieve wind and bloating, reduces spasm and has a stimulating effect on digestion. Aniseed again is a warming and relaxing herb which can ease griping and wind in the digestive system. These seeds can be bought in your local supermarket or spice store.

Method :
Add 1-2 teaspoons of Fennel and Aniseed to a small pot
Infuse for at least 15 minutes in boiling water
Sip throughout the day or bring to work in a flask to ease a cramping upset stomach