Living with IBS: Tips for Managing Symptoms
Living with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can be incredibly difficult and stressful. Symptoms of IBS, like abdominal pain, bloating, and changes in bowel habits may affect both your physical and mental health. Furthermore, IBS can significantly reduce the quality of life when not appropriately managed. It is for this reason that seeking IBS treatment is necessary.
If you have been recently diagnosed with IBS or have been dealing with it for some time, this blog post will help explain ways to effectively manage symptoms so that you can live a more comfortable life. With the proper knowledge, understanding, and change in lifestyle, living with IBS doesn’t have to feel so overwhelming.
1- Consider making dietary changes: A well-balanced diet is essential for managing IBS symptoms. Eating foods that are low in fat and high in fiber has been found to be beneficial. A good place to start is by removing gastric triggers such as high-fat, greasy foods, spicy foods, carbonated beverages, and caffeine. In some cases, the low-FODMAP diet is used to identify dietary triggers for IBS. FODMAPs are fermentable carbohydrates, such as onion, garlic, and fructan sugars found in wheat products. However, it is recommended that you seek guidance from a dietitian when following the low-FODMAP diet.
2- Try relaxation techniques: Stress can worsen IBS symptoms due to the gut-brain connection. The gut has its own nervous system, known as the enteric nervous system, which can react to external stimuli such as emotional stress, worsening symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, and diarrhea. Deep breathing exercises, yoga, meditation, and massage are all effective ways to reduce stress and relax the body. Gut-directed hypnotherapy is an evidence-based management strategy for IBS. This technique changes the way your gut and brain communicate with each other, improving IBS outcomes.
3- Exercise regularly: Regular physical activity can help reduce overall IBS symptoms. Gentle exercises such as yoga work on the mind to reduce stress and on the body to improve the movement of muscles around the intestine. It’s important to note that not all types of exercise may be beneficial for people with IBS. High-intensity workouts or activities that involve a lot of jarring or bouncing movements may actually worsen symptoms for some individuals. It’s best to start with low-impact exercises and gradually increase intensity as tolerated.
4- Get plenty of sleep: Quality sleep is essential for good health, and ensuring you get enough restful sleep is particularly important for gut health. Poor sleep can cause an increase in pain signals between the gut and the brain, exacerbating IBS symptoms. Aim for at least seven to eight hours of sleep per night on average, but feel free to adjust this depending on how you feel on a given day. If needed, try using relaxation techniques before bed, such as deep breathing or meditation, or speak with your doctor about potential treatments if insomnia is a problem.
Living with IBS can be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be unmanageable. By making some dietary changes, incorporating relaxation techniques, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep, you can help reduce your symptoms and improve your quality of life. Working with your healthcare provider on developing an individualized plan will ensure that you are able to manage your condition in the best way possible. With the right knowledge and support, it is possible to live a good quality life despite having IBS.
At Beyond Nutrition, our experienced dietitians and nutritionists specialize in creating customized, evidence-based IBS treatment plans for managing IBS symptoms. We take a personalized approach to identify your specific triggers and develop a plan tailored to your needs and health goals.
If you’re ready to take the first step towards living a more comfortable life with IBS, contact us today to schedule a consultation. Let us help you make positive lifestyle changes and regain control over your health.