The only thing worse than the pain and discomfort of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is the embarrassment that goes along with it. Gas, cramping and diarrhea can strike at any given place or time, causing a great deal of stress and anxiety – which unfortunately, can make IBS even worse.
Approximately 10 to 15 percent of Americans struggle with IBS. While there is currently no cure for this chronic condition, there are several dietary and lifestyle changes that can help keep symptoms under control. Consider some of these tips to bring about relief:
Many IBS sufferers find that stressful situations worsen their symptoms. While it’s not always possible to eliminate stress entirely, you can help to ease anxiety with some simple relaxation techniques. The next time you start to feel your stress meter rising, sit back, close your eyes and take some deep breaths. You may also find that yoga, meditation or just getting some extra rest can help you unwind and gain some fresh perspective on your situation.
Physical activity is another great stress reliever, and it also helps to keep your digestive system functioning properly. A 2011 study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology found that IBS sufferers who exercised 20-30 minutes three to five days a week had fewer symptoms than those who did not exercise at all. Make physical activity part of your daily routine, and you could see an improvement in abdominal pain, constipation and other symptoms.
Evaluate Your Diet
Certain foods can aggravate IBS, so it’s always a good idea to take a look at what’s on your plate. Everyone is different, but some foods that commonly cause problems are dairy, wheat, artificial sweeteners, garlic, onions, legumes, broccoli and cabbage. If you’re having trouble identifying which foods cause your IBS flare-ups, consider keeping a food journal. This will help you narrow down which foods are connected to your symptoms.
Establish a Digestive Routine
Help your body get used to a digestive schedule by eating meals at roughly the same time each day, and avoid snacks between meals. Snacking can disrupt the digestive process in some people, making IBS flare-ups a concern. If you do eat snacks, allow at least four hours between snacks and meals so your body has plenty of time to digest.
Talk to Your Doctor
If changes to your diet and lifestyle habits are not enough to keep your IBS symptoms under control, schedule an appointment with your doctor. Some over-the-counter supplements can help regulate your digestive and bowel habits, but these should always be used under a doctor’s supervision. Your physician can also rule out the possibility of any other health problems to help you determine the best course of treatment (Source: U.S. News).