IBS, also known as irritable bowel syndrome, is a gastrointestinal disorder that affects millions of people worldwide. It is characterized by symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea. Though it can be a challenging condition to manage, there are ways to alleviate symptoms and achieve better gut health. In this blog post, you’ll learn 15 tips to tackle IBS once and for all.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a common functional gastrointestinal disorder, affecting approximately 10-15% of the global population. Medically, it is classified as a ‘syndrome,’ which means a group of symptoms occurring together, not a disease. The exact cause of IBS remains unknown, but it is thought to result from a disruption in the way the gut, brain, and nervous system interact. This can lead to heightened sensitivity to food or stress, resulting in the common symptoms of IBS such as abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea. It’s worth noting that IBS does not lead to severe complications like bowel cancer, but can significantly impact the quality of life of those affected.
Those suffering from IBS often experience a spectrum of symptoms with varying severity. These may include abdominal cramps, bloating, changes in bowel habits (alternating periods of diarrhea and constipation), excess gas, and sometimes even a noticeable increase in belly girth. Some patients also report non-gastrointestinal symptoms such as fatigue, anxiety, or depression, which can exacerbate the gastrointestinal symptoms, thereby adding another layer of complexity in diagnosing and managing IBS.
Scientific researchers are making concerted efforts to unravel the mysteries of IBS, trying to understand more about its causes and potential treatments. Studies are being conducted to explore the interaction between the gut and the brain, often referred to as the gut-brain axis, and how it contributes to IBS symptoms. There is ongoing research into how diet affects gut health, and the role of the gut microbiome in IBS is also being extensively studied. Researchers are exploring therapeutic strategies such as probiotics, antibiotics, and even fecal microbiota transplants. Though we still have much to learn about IBS, the scientific community’s relentless efforts promise a future with more effective and individualized treatment strategies for IBS patients.
However, there are things you can do today to help relieve your symptoms. It’s essential to note that everyone’s gut health is unique, and what works for one person may not work for another. This is why it’s important to experiment with different methods. These tips are designed to be used as a guide, so take what you find useful and seek advice from a medical professional before starting any significant lifestyle changes.
1. Mindful Eating
Start by paying attention to the way you eat. Eating too quickly, not chewing properly, and ignoring fullness signals can worsen IBS symptoms. Instead, focus on being present while eating, chew slowly, and avoid distractions like phone or TV.
2. Rule Out Fungal, Bacterial and Parasitic Problems
If IBS symptoms are persistent, it’s important to get tested for cryptosporidium, entamoeba hisolytica, giardia lamblia and other parasites. Additionally, ruling out bacterial infections such as Helicobacter pylori can also be beneficial in managing IBS symptoms. Some people take a supplement such as a candida natural supplement to help tackle any additional problems they may be experiencing in their gut.
3. Reduce Stress
Stress is a significant contributor to IBS. Scientists think this is because of the close connection between the gut and brain, and how stress can disrupt this connection. Try to reduce stress through relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, or deep breathing exercises.
4. Find Your Triggers
Everyone has different food triggers for their IBS. Keep a food diary to figure out which foods and drinks trigger your symptoms. Then adjust your diet accordingly to minimize or eliminate those triggers.
5. Fiber Intake
Fiber helps regulate bowel movements, but too much can irritate the intestines. Introduce fiber-rich foods gradually and drink plenty of water to keep bowel movements regular.
Probiotics are live microorganisms that live in our digestive tract. They help to break down food, boost immunity, and minimize inflammation. Consult with your doctor for the right probiotic for you, and consider consuming more dietary sources such as yogurt, kefir, miso, and kimchi.
Dehydration can worsen IBS symptoms. Scientists think this is because it can cause muscle spasms in the large intestine, which can result in abdominal pain. Make sure you’re drinking at least six to eight glasses of water a day and limit or avoid alcohol and caffeine-containing beverages.
Regular exercise boosts digestion, reduces inflammation, promotes healthy bowel movements, and fights stress. Find activities that you enjoy and make them part of your routine for better gut health.
9. Good Fats
Healthy fats such as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids found in nuts, seeds, and fatty fish help fight inflammation and promote healthy digestion. Research even shows that these fats help to create a protective barrier for the intestinal wall, which can help with IBS symptoms.
10. Avoid Processed Foods
Processed foods are often high in sugar, refined carbohydrates, and unhealthy fats – all of which can worsen IBS symptoms. Avoid processed foods as much as possible and opt for whole, unprocessed options instead.
Poor sleep worsens IBS symptoms. Ensure you get enough sleep daily, making it a priority in your daily routine. Improving your sleep can actually help improve your gut health to the extent that IBS symptoms can disappear entirely.
12. Cut Out Gluten
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye that can cause inflammation in the intestine and trigger IBS symptoms. If you think you have a sensitivity to gluten, it’s worth cutting out from your diet for a few weeks to see if there are any improvements.
13. Try Additional Supplements
There are a number of things you can add into your diet to see if they improve your IBS symptoms. Peppermint oil is known to relax the digestive muscles, reduce bloating, and alleviate abdominal pain. Vitamin D is essential for gut health, immunity, and inflammation regulation. Consider taking supplements or getting enough sun exposure.
14. Avoid Overeating
Overeating worsens bloating and constipation. Eat slowly and stop eating when you feel full. Scientific research shows that this can help improve IBS symptoms quite significantly.
15. Reduce Sugar
High sugar diets contribute to inflammation, worsening IBS symptoms. Sugar is also highly addictive, which contributes to cravings. Reduce the amount of sugar in your diet by avoiding processed foods and sugary drinks. Natural sweeteners such as honey or maple syrup can make a great alternative. Read food labels and limit or avoid added sugars when possible.
There are several ways to improve your gut health and alleviate IBS symptoms. Incorporate these tips into your daily routine and find what works best for you. Remember to be patient as it may take time before you notice significant changes. Additionally, consult with a medical professional before starting any significant lifestyle changes or taking supplements. With patience, commitment, and determination, you can tackle IBS once and for all.