Simple remedies for Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Tired of IBS? Try one of these remedies.

Bloating, cramping, pain, gas, constipation, diarrhea – will it ever go away? Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common intestinal disorder that causes all sorts of uncomfortable symptoms. Currently, the cause of IBS is unclear, but bouts with the condition are tied to stress, anxiety, trigger foods, a sensitive gut, hormonal changes and/or the way the brain communicates with the digestive tract.

Though it’s not a serious disease like cancer, ulcerative colitis, or Crohn’s, IBS can be a chronic condition that affects your daily life. There’s no magic pill to cure IBS and the way you choose to manage IBS depends on your symptoms and triggers. Medication is available, but many people find they can control their symptoms through diet, stress management and alternative remedies.

The changes you make to your diet will depend on whether you struggle more with diarrhea or constipation. To reduce the number of trips you make to the restroom, limit dairy products and fruit; caffeinated beverages (coffee and soda) and alcohol; chocolate; fatty and greasy foods (French fries or butter); and artificial sweeteners like xylitol, mannitol, and sorbitol.

If your IBS has you not going to the restroom often enough, increase the amount of fiber in your diet. It’s best to do this slowly over time. Otherwise, your gas and cramping issues may get worse instead of better. Foods high in fiber include whole grains, beans, fruits, and vegetables. If foods don’t do the trick or cause excessive gas, try taking a fiber supplement with plenty of water.

Avoiding foods like cabbage, beans, raw broccoli or cauliflower, as well as passing on carbonated drinks may help relieve frequent bloating and gas. And stop chewing gum and drinking with a straw, as both cause you to swallow air and produce gas.

An imbalance of healthy gut bacteria can lead to digestive distress. Taking a probiotic supplement or eating yogurt with live cultures has been shown to reduce IBS symptoms.

Many people experience a decrease in their IBS symptoms when they eat on a schedule, eat frequent small meals, and don’t skip meals. These small changes can help regulate bowel function and IBS symptoms.

Many IBS sufferers notice a direct relationship between their symptoms and their mental or emotional state. Stress, anxiety, and depression are known to trigger unpleasant digestive tract symptoms. When these psychological issues are dealt with, IBS symptoms may lessen.

Seeing a professional counselor, getting a massage, practicing relaxation techniques, or meditating are all healthy ways to cope with stress and negative emotions, but one of the most effective ways to ease stress is exercise. Whether it’s walking, jogging, weight lifting, yoga, or dancing, any type of physical activity will relieve tension, boost your mood, give you energy, and improve mental and physical health. Exercise also triggers the production of endorphins, the chemicals in your brain that reduce pain and encourage a good night’s rest. Even five minutes of exercise will help, but aim for at least half an hour a day, and watch your IBS symptoms lessen over time!

When medications cause unpleasant side effects or lifestyle changes don’t help IBS symptoms, many people turn to nontraditional therapies. The herb peppermint is a known antispasmodic remedy to relax digestive muscles. Look for enteric-coated capsules or drink hot peppermint tea. An herbal combination called STW 5 (Iberogast) is popular in parts of Europe and has been proven effective for many IBS sufferers.

Acupuncture and hypnosis are two additional alternative therapies that may bring relief when performed by a trained professional.

Jack Wheeler is personal trainer and the owner of 360 Fitness in Red Deer.

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