With the holiday season nearly upon us, over-indulgence of food and drink can bring about or exacerbate digestive problems and cause discomfort.

One of the attractive features of homeopathy is that with a vast amount of homeopathic remedies available, the most appropriate remedy for the individual symptoms presented by the person are chosen, rather than treating a named illness.

The Merck Manual 15th edition defines Irritable Bowel Syndromes as “motility disorders involving the small intestine and large bowel associated with various degrees of abdominal pain, constipation or diarrhoea, largely as a reaction to stress in a susceptible individual”. It may also be referred to as nervous or functional diarrhoea or mucous colitis.

Taking a detailed case history from a patient usually uncovers stress factors the patient is / has been subjected to, and IBS can be one of its manifestations. Here are a look at five remedies that I have successfully used in practice for symptoms of IBS and the personality types that these are most suited to.

 Natrum Muriaticum: (Sodium Chloride – Salt) This remedy is suited to persons of an intensively private and sensitive nature, not known for making small talk or gossiping so they appear reserved and shy. They prefer to avoid social gatherings and enjoy their own company. Their sensitivity means that they can be easily hurt, and once upset they tend to hold insults and grudges. They have a dislike of slimy foods such as undercooked egg white, oysters and bread, but like salty and starchy foods. Mid-morning is the time they would feel hungry or their symptoms aggravate and when under stress they can lose their appetite.

When affected by the symptoms of IBS they could experience indigestion, cramping pains, wind, hiccups and bloating that is worse after eating. Their mouth is dry with a bitter, salty taste, and when in pain they become very thirsty. They will strain to pass a stool and after completing the act of defecation feel as though more stool remains in the rectum.

Lycopodium – (Club Moss) This remedy is suited to people who can be  angry but have difficulty expressing their feelings. They can be easily offended or embarrassed and have a fear of failure, particularly of exams of public speaking or of being lost, and since they are intellectual people it can make them seem impatient and irritable, rude and domineering. They do not like to be alone but also do not like company, preferring to know that there is someone else in another room in the house or office.

Although they are hungry for their food, they feel full up quickly even when they have only eaten a small amount, can suffer with flatulence and dislike the feeling of pressure of tight clothes. They like to eat chocolate and sugary, sweet foods but have a dislike of onions; their symptoms can be worse between 4.00 and 8.00pm. Symptoms of constipation, flatulence, indigestion, belching and heartburn are commonly found with this remedy. Beans, cabbage, onions and other flatulent foods can distress this person’s digestive system and passing wind will give relief.

Pulsatilla (Pasque flower) A gentle, mild natured individual that is easily moved to laugh or cry, shy initially yet make, and keep, lots of friends. They are very easily influenced or hurt and will suppress their feelings, becoming moody and full of anxiety. They particularly worry about what others will think of them;  if they feel humiliated they blame themselves for what has happened. With a desire to be in the fresh air, all their symptoms are improved.

Their appetite is changeable and they are sensitive to fatty or rich foods, they tend not to feel thirsty but experience a bad or bitter taste in the mouth in the mornings. Bitter belching, indigestion and heartburn pains are worse at night, stomach rumbles and wind is difficult to expel. Their stool can change from constipation to diarrhoea within the course of a day. Changeability is the keynote of this remedy.

Calcarea Carbonica (Calcium Carbonate) Where Nat Mur types tend to be lean, the Calc Carb personality is more robust. They are happy, contented types when they are well, but once stress affects them it makes them very anxious and cause them to worry about everything, particularly their own health. When under stress they become sluggish both mentally and physically, becoming concerned about what other people might think of them. They are dependable and reliable and take their responsibilities very seriously with a tendency to overwork, leading to exhaustion; they will plod on because they are so stubborn and fearful they might lose their job.

Sweating occurs on both mental and physical exertion and is more profuse during sleep. They experience a bad, sour taste in their mouth and feel much worse when the atmosphere is cold and damp, being in a draught and for drinking milk. Their digestion is sluggish, their metabolism is slow and therefore they can gain weight easily and their stool symptoms are constipation at first, followed by sour-smelling diarrhoea. Tight clothing does not suit them, since it makes the painful bloating worse. Belching is sour and they suffer with flatulence.

Nux Vomica (Poison Nut) The personality associated with Nux Vom is one who is excitable, enthusiastic, ambitious, a workaholic with a creative mind who is critical, fussy and easily frustrated by limitations and can become irritable and argumentative at home or at work. They dislike being contradicted or being disturbed and if this happens they may shout or swear at the person who has offended them.

They have a tendency to eat highly spiced foods, smoke, like alcohol, drink excess coffee and over-indulge in the wrong foods at the wrong times, often due to the effect of mental and emotional stress. They may take medicines to combat the effects of insomnia brought on by overwork, living on stimulants and a lack of exercise.

Overindulgence can lead to a slowing down of the digestive process, causing the stomach to feel heavy and bloated particularly after eating. Other symptoms would be cramping, heartburn, indigestion, flatulence and constipation. A hot drink and passing wind helps to relieve these symptoms. Working late and eating at irregular hours may lead to a bad night’s sleep so for the person who wakes jaded with the feeling of a ‘hangover’, breakfast is certainly out of the question;  the day will start with a cup of coffee. When the hunger pangs kick in later on there will be a craving for foods that further stress the digestive system. A hard stool, alternating with watery diarrhoea and a possible feeling of faintness is associated with their digestive complaints.

Where to buy Homeopathic remedies – Homeopathic remedies can be bought from healthfood shops chemists or pop into the clinic.

Homeopathic remedies are often used as self-help for simple conditions, however for more serious complaints a homeopath, GP or health professional should be consulted before using homeopathic medicines.

Written by Sarah Allenby-Byrne, Homeopath.