Health Talk

Combat IBS naturally


Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is frequently a term given to unexplained digestive conditions.  It can be common where people eat a western diet, but is comparatively unknown in cultures where people eat simple, natural foods, and do not over-eat.

Although not life-threatening, IBS can indicate more serious problems, so it is important to get checked out.  Assuming that more serious conditions been ruled out, there are a number of steps you can take to help yourself.

isolated-set-vegetables-basketPlant-based diet

Avoid caffeinated or carbonated drinks, tobacco, alcohol, sugar, artificial sweeteners, antacids and laxatives.  When your intestines upset you, temporarily go on a bland diet.  Put meals through a blender when eating is painful, and wear loose fitting clothing so as not to make matters worse.

Ideally opt for an organic wholefood mainly plant-based diet, cutting out processed foods. The fibre in vegetables can be helpful.

Try drinking additional water. Daily, drink one tablespoon of black strap molasses in a cup of hot water, and take 2 tablespoons of flaxseed oil. Take probiotics (in supplements, fermented food or live yoghurt), twice weekly, to help increase good gut flora and reduce unwanted bacterial strains. You may require increased intake of minerals and trace elements due to malabsorption.  A naturopathic practitioner would be able to advise you about the appropriateness and dosage of relevant supplements.

reading-cookbookDon’t rush

Eat on a regular schedule, ideally with 5 hours between meals, and don’t eat before going to bed.

Naturopathic medicine is about finding the cause, not simply addressing the symptoms, if you want a longer term fix.   So search for any food intolerances by keeping written records of your reactions to food and drink, and any emotional or other stressors.

Avoid stress and having to rush.  Lifestyle is a big factor in IBS.  Try deep breathing to feel calmer, and remember that regular exercise, specifically outdoors, is needed in order to maintain good health, including good bowel health.

chamomile-teaNatural Remedies

Natural remedies to relieve gastrointestinal pain and expel the gas include taking a luke warm enema. Or you could take charcoal tablets, but not daily, as it would cause constipation.  Peppermint tea (3 or more cups a day) soothes the entire intestinal tract. Chamomile tea also helps.

If you need extra help, a naturopathic therapist can help you tailor-make a dietary and lifestyle plan to target your individual condition.

Shaf Khan, Naturopath and Herbalist, is a graduate of CNM (College of Naturopathic Medicine).

Health Talk

Herbs for a good nights sleep


We all know that sleep is extremely important to normal function. Without it our body doesn’t get to regenerate and repair, stress gets more stressful and life generally gets harder. With our 24/7 lifestyle, it’s perhaps not surprising that sleep disturbances are amongst the most frequently treated conditions in natural health practice.  Herbs can be especially useful when it comes to combating sleep disturbances.

Whilst there are many different types of sleep deprivation and insomnia, generally they can be divided into two patterns; difficulty getting to sleep, and difficulty staying asleep.  Remedies for no two patients are the same.  The causes of sleep disturbances vary from person to person, and these are amongst the underlying factors your herbalist needs to assess when mixing up the most appropriate remedy. However, you may find it helpful to take the following measures to help you wind down:

  • Using herbs in your bath.  Lavender is traditional for promoting a deep and healthful sleep, but you can also use oats or chamomile.  To avoid mess, try putting the herbs into a muslin bag.
  • Making a sleep-inducing herbal tea.  A traditional combination for sleep is valerian, hops and passionflower. If you’re inclined to need to visit the toilet in the night, you may prefer to use capsules or tablets, which are available from health food stores.
  • A favourite herbal remedy for those who can’t stay asleep is the Ayurvedic herb, Ashwagandha, which is so gentle and safe that it’s often given to children in India. Rather than knocking you out immediately, the effects come on slowly and reach their peak in the small hours when you really need to stay asleep. Try three capsules of Ashwagandha before retiring. This dose can be adjusted up or down according to the results.
  • Back up your sleep-inducing efforts by getting some daytime exercise in the fresh air.  Wear breathable nightwear and have a comfortable mattress and pillows. Hang heavy curtains to block out the light. Establish winding down rituals at night, such as no computers, or stimulating TV programmes after 8pm. Ban TVs, mobile and cordless phones from the bedroom to reduce ‘electronic smog’.  Don’t eat within 3 hours of going to bed, or conversely, if you wake up because you are hungry, have 2 oatcakes as pre-bed snack. And back to the herbs, sprinkle a little lavender on your pillow!

CNM’s Herbal Medicine Diploma Course is taught in  London, Manchester, and Dublin. Based on naturopathic, holistic principles, the Course incorporates Western herbs and  the energetic approach of Ayurvedic and Chinese Medicine.  Herbal students at CNM are also given a good understanding of additional natural diagnostic and therapeutic  tools, so that they are equipped to offer their clients  lifestyle and nutritional advice.  Combined with a healthy lifestyle and optimal nutrition, herbal medicine can form part of a winning formula for a lifetime of health and vitality.

By Herbalist and Iridologist Peter Jackson Main, Course Leader in Herbal Medicine at CNM.