5 Lifestyle Changes to Reduce the Symptoms of IBS

May 7th 2016

Managing IBS symptoms is an art rather than a science, as no two sufferers react in exactly the same way. Make lifestyle changes one at a time to see which ones help and which ones make your symptoms worse, and if you are worried at any stage, talk to a medical professional about your options.

Exercise

One of the few factors in managing IBS symptoms that appears to work for the majority of sufferers is increased bodily activity. Vigorous exercise on a regular basis appears to reduce the severity of symptoms for most sufferers, and it does not seem to lead to an increase in symptoms even for those it does not help. It is therefore well worth looking at your exercise regime and increasing the number, intensity and duration of your workout sessions. Even walking more throughout the day can help.

Stress Management

While stress is not a cause of IBS, it can make symptoms feel worse. Finding a stress management technique that works for you can help to control this issue. Popular options include mindfulness, meditation and hypnosis.

Stay Hydrated

Drinking plenty of liquids helps the intestines work more smoothly. However, some sufferers find certain drinks make diarrhea symptoms worse, particularly if they contain alcohol and caffeine. Carbonated drinks can also contribute to excess gas, so water is the safest choice.

Ditch the Dairy

While not all IBS sufferers are lactose intolerant, the two conditions often overlap, and they can create a vicious cycle of discomfort. By removing dairy products from your diet, check to see if this is the case for you. Manage the rest of your diet carefully to ensure you do not miss any vital nutrients while eliminating dairy. Protein, calcium and B vitamins are all vital nutrients that many Americans get mainly from milk products, so check out alternate sources for these such as leafy greens and bean curd.

Eat Regularly and Well

The frequency of meals that suits you varies depending on your symptoms. In general, eating small frequent meals helps during periods of diarrhea. Eating larger amounts of high-fiber foods sometimes helps with constipation, so larger meals at regular mealtimes can be useful. Be aware some people find increasing fiber intake makes intestinal distress and gas symptoms worse. Reducing consumption of the resistant starches that often occur in processed and reheated foods can help, so try to cook from scratch. Weigh the benefits and drawbacks of each course of action to find the best option.

Conclusion

While living with irritable bowel syndrome is different for every sufferer, there are several lifestyle options you can try that may reduce symptoms. However, in some cases, symptoms get worse for some people with these treatments, so be aware you need to try these changes with an open mind to see which options work for you.

Sources

MayoClinic.org "Irritable bowel syndrome: Lifestyle and home remedies" http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/irritable-bowel-syndrome/basics/lifestyle-home-remedies/con-20024578
WebMD.com "Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) health center: Home treatment" http://www.webmd.com/ibs/guide/irritable-bowel-syndrome-ibs-home-treatment
NICE.org.uk "Irritable bowel syndrome in adults: Dwiagnosis and management of irritable bowel syndrome in primary care" https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg61/chapter/1-Recommendations

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