If you suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), you’ve got company.
IBS is the most common functional gastrointestinal (GI) disorder with worldwide prevalence rates generally ranging from 10–15%. It also accounts for up to 12% of total visits to primary care providers (source).
IBS occurs when the muscles in your colon that squeeze to push stool through malfunction. There are two types of IBS:
- IBS-D results from these muscles contracting too quickly, giving you diarrhea.
- IBS-C results from the muscles contracting too slowly, resulting in constipation.
The reasons for developing IBS vary–as a result of a GI illness, antibiotics, or emotional trauma.
If you’ve been recently diagnosed with IBS, or suspect you suffer from it, you can take proactive steps to minimize symptoms.
Here are four tips to keep in mind if you want to rid yourself of flare-ups when it comes to frustrating symptoms such as constipation, bloating, diarrhea, cramping, and gas.
#1 Avoid Problem Foods
Food sensitivities can vary from one person to the next, so there’s not one specific list of off-limit foods for IBS sufferers.
You may have already determined which foods trigger your symptoms of irregularity, cramping, and bloating.
If not, it might be worth trying out an elimination diet or food allergy/sensitivity test to determine which foods may be giving you issues.
Common problem foods include alcohol, chocolate, caffeinated beverages such as coffee and sodas, fatty foods, grains, and dairy products.
Additionally, if gas is a specific recurring IBS symptom for you, foods that may be exacerbating your IBS include beans, cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli.
#2 Drink Lots of Water
Drinking fresh water is crucial for good health for a variety of reasons, but is especially key when it comes to proper digestive tract functioning.
Simply put–if you’re dehydrated, you’re more likely to become constipated.
You should be consuming a minimum of eight cups of water every day, with the aspiration to drink least twice that amount.
Fiber and water together are a duo that work to…
- Maintain gastrointestinal muscle tone.
- Dilute toxic wastes in the GI tract.
- Deliver oxygen to your body’s tissues.
- Help maintain the correct balance of intestinal flora.
#3 Exercise Regularly
In addition to decreasing stress (see tip number four), physical activity stimulates normal intestinal contractions.
You can start your day off right by exercising in the morning and preparing your digestive tract to function optimally through the rest of the day.
It can feel challenging to start exercising if it has never been part of your weekly routine, or if you’ve had a period of inactivity.
My advice? Take baby steps.
Start off slowly and increase your activity in time and exercise-based increments.
That said, always check with your doctor before starting an exercise program if you have other medical problems.
#4 Manage Stress
Everyday stresses can be villains when it comes to your IBS flare-ups.
The reason for this has to do with the numerous neural connections between your gut and your brain. Experiencing psychological and emotional stress can stimulate colon spasms.
To decrease stress, try relaxation therapy, mindfulness practices (such as meditation), and cognitive behavioral therapy, which are all proven strategies for minimizing IBS symptoms.
Even taking simpler steps toward decreasing stress, such as getting more sleep, can help decrease flare-ups.
Don’t expect your body to respond immediately to these changes after incorporating them into your life. The goal here is to find long-term, not temporary, solutions, and sometimes you won’t see changes until some time has passed.
The payoff will be worth it–minimizing IBS symptoms will make life more livable.
When experiencing IBS symptoms such as bloating and constipation, it’s helpful to have a few natural supplements on hand that will ease digestion. Learn more about four natural solutions.