IBS – Irritable Bowel Syndrome

People eating and having fun
Eating in relaxed company aids digestion and Stomach functions.


To quote: ‘The patient complains of disordered bowel function with abdominal pain, but no organic disease can be found.’ (Bailliere’s Nurses’ Dictionary.) This is what used to be called ‘Spastic colon’ or ‘Mucous Colitis’.

Its origin is often emotional crisis, or a shock, or an extended period of stress, worry or tension.

Wine is warming and Heat is another cause of Stomach Blood stasis and IBS
A little alcohol may relax and aid digestion. ( A LITTLE!)

Occasionally it seems to be triggered, or at least first noticed, after a period of digestive or alcoholic indiscretion – otherwise known as having a good time, when stressed!

Unfortunately, after a while, it may be impossible to remember the events that it started with, and stress may or may not play a part in the frequency of symptoms.

Dieticians and allergy specialists often attribute IBS to food or substance sensitivity, infection or a build-up of toxins. They may suggest you follow the FODMAP diet. This may reduce your symptoms but doesn’t necessarily deal with the underlying tendency.

Candida albicans is also often suspected, but this depends on the therapist’s background.

Candida is implicated in many diseases but it is not often the original cause.

Various therapies make a difference to irritable bowel syndrome, and some stand out – see below.

You’ll need to change your diet for a while, if foods trigger your IBS.

But when you get better, they cease to be triggers.

Symptoms of IBS

  • Intermittent abdominal discomfort or pain
  • with difficulty but urging to defecate.
  • Stools may be constipated, loose or runny, sometimes with mucus.
  • It may be possible to feel (and in thin people to see) tense or knotty places in the bowel through the wall of the abdomen.
  • These bits of tension often move around, producing wind or small bits of stool.
  • IBS can be accompanied by:
  • headache (usually at the temples or forehead),
  • irritability
  • unsociability
  • anxiety over eating and food
  • general tension. 
  • Symptoms are often, but by no means always aggravated by stress and deadlines, eating certain foods, or illness. 
  • The patient often feels better if she can take regular exercise.


In our experience, food sensitivity plays a part, also toxic overload and candida.

In Chinese Medicine there a number of possible syndromes that IBS can be diagnosed as having, including


(The Spleen when working properly, transforms food into Blood and Qi, and transports it round the body. Liver Qi when stagnating prevents this, leading to little pools of stagnant energy, like little knots under the abdominal skin that move around under pressure or massage).

Acupuncture to release Qi stagnation usually works quickly and smoothly.


Other therapies for Irritable Bowel

But any other therapy that loosens Liver Qi stagnation also works, including


Cheese and dairy food often contribute to IBS
Photo by Waldemar Brandt on Unsplash
  • You my need advice on diet and lifestyle.

As regards diet, often the culprit is either dairy food, and/or too much carbohydrate in general (including corn), and some kinds of wheat in particular.

A long history of this can lead to accumulation of old faeces and re-absorption of toxins through the wall of the bowel – a condition not unlike a Chinese medicine syndrome called ‘Food Retention‘. Cleansing this may take persistence.

Following this, a diet should be followed that contains

  • plenty of fish (oily fish like mackerel are best, but take occasional white fish: avoid shell-fish) and
  • vegetables, grown if possible without chemicals, with
  • non-gluten forming grains. (Rice, millet, quinoa are non-gluten forming.) Avoid, wheat and dairy products as much as possible, and
  • no coffee or caffeine-type stimulants or drinks, and not too much spicy food, and be cautious about citrus fruits. Why? Because coffee/caffeine stimulates yang but drains yin (read the page on it) so reducing your body’s ability to relax the muscles that have gone into spasm. Spicy food is also yang, and heating, also potentially draining yin factors, though how much depends on your constitution and on how used to spicy foods you are. Citrus fruits are sour and while the sour taste in small quantities benefits your liver, too much can tighten it up. Think what happens to most people’s faces when they suck a raw lime or lemon!
  • no greasy, fatty, deep-fried or battered food. These foods are too heating and can be difficult to digest if your liver is not producing enough bile.


Vigorous exercise is often of huge benefit to IBS sufferers.

If Candida is suspected, you may need to be treated separately for this. However, if the Chinese medical syndromes are successfully treated as above, your body behaves as if Candida has no place because it is in harmony with itself, so Candida is pushed out. (You may find this hard to believe, but I’ve seen it many times!)

Sometimes a lack of Stomach Qi can also cause this. Stomach Qi is represented in part by Stomach acid, so a lack of this means you don’t break down foods. Instead you pass them along into the small intestine less digested than is desirable. Your intestines then revolt, or you get diarrhoea! (What can you do about Stomach Qi deficiency? – click here!)


Qi Stagnation is such a big subject, or at least the conditions which it covers are so many, that I wrote a book about it.

Qi Stagnation happens to everyone from time to time. It’s part of life, and does little harm, especially if you know how to deal with it – which is what the book I wrote is about: I’m told it’s easy to read.

If Qi Stagnation goes on for too long, then you may have a problem. The book describes how it could make you ill.

But all is not lost! For nearly everyone, there are ways forward.

Even when you have to put up with Qi stagnation in one part of your life, learning how to take the ‘sting’ out of it can lead you down new pathways and keep you enjoyably sane!

Knowing that, you’ll often find that the stagnating Qi – which is, after all, your own trapped energy – becomes a huge resource that you can use to move on creatively.

Other Foods to eat more of

Reduce or stop the foods mentioned above (coffee, too spicy, too sour, most forms of wheat etc) and gradually increase the foods that contain fibre you can deal with. This comes in the form of vegetables, oats, beans and peas, and fruit, including the skins.

As already mentioned, the FODMAP diet helps many.

Aloe Vera juice is cooling so particularly helps if your bowel movements are frequent and malodorous. (However, Aloe Vera is not sold for its taste!)

But you also need to look at how your body deals with stress, which means Qi Stagnation (see above).

Why Does My Stomach Hurt?

If your pain is in your upper abdomen, above your belly button and under your ribs, then click on Why Does My Stomach Hurt?

You may like to know more about how your Stomach works in Chinese medicine:

Here are various Stomach syndromes (which can also combine with other syndromes):

Jonathan Brand colours

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