Spastic colon is not a disease but a functional disorder, a brain-gut dysfunction. The term “spastic colon” is sometimes used in place of the term “irritable bowel syndrome” (IBS) but it more correctly describes the increase in spontaneous contractions (motility) of muscles only in the lower abdomen and colon. These contractions sometimes are called spasms, producing pain and cramping. It produces either diarrhea, constipation, or alternations of each. Gas and bloating are common.
Causes of Spastic Colon
A viral illness or parasitic infection can produce symptoms of spastic colon, usually lasting but a few months. When taking antibiotics an imbalance usually occurs in the proportion of beneficial bacteria found throughout the intestinal tract. Symptoms of spastic colon then can occur. This also usually corrects after a few months. Stress and poor diet may aggravate other conditions, producing symptoms of spastic colon.
Unfortunately, many cases of spastic colon (and IBS) have no known cause. Without a known cause, spastic colon currently is not curable.
Conventional Treatment of Spastic Colon with Drugs
Conventional Western medicine treats only the symptoms. Laxatives frequently are suggested for constipation, and anti-diarrheals for diarrhea. Sedatives, tranquilizers, antidepressants or antispasmodics often are prescribed.
Conventional Treatment of Spastic Colon without Drugs
Non-drug approaches for treating spastic colon symptomatically include heating pads, hot baths, and other warm, relaxing treatments.
Where constipation is the symptom, The National Digestive Information Clearinghouse recommends that people with spastic colons eat meals high in carbohydrates: pasta, rice and other high-fiber foods. The purpose is to soften the stool so that it moves more smoothly through the colon.
It is helpful to eat smaller meals more often. So, too, is increasing the amount of water consumed.
Check for vitamin and mineral deficiencies and take supplements where this is indicated.
Stress is an aggravating factor. It’s certainly wise to learn to handle stress, even beyond its negative effect on spastic colon.
Cooking most foods and eating fewer raw foods can help fight diarrhea. Also helpful is increasing high potassium foods such as avocados, fish, nectarines, potatoes, bananas, apricots and peaches.
Particularly when diarrhea is the symptom, foods to avoid include: highly spiced foods; bacon; mayonnaise; nuts; corn; raw vegetables; alcoholic beverages, including beer or wine; and beverages containing caffeine or sweetened with sugar.
Treating Spastic Colon with Acupuncture
The World Health Organization recognizes acupuncture’s effectiveness in the treatment spastic colon. Acupuncture addresses two aspects of the condition simultaneously:
- Acupuncture lessens the body’s perception of pain by stimulating the release of neurochemicals by the nervous system.
- Acupuncture balances the autonomic nervous system in its control of the bowel, thereby improving the digestion of foods and lessening fermentation and gas formation.