Irritable Bowel Syndrome a.k.a. IBS is a common gastric condition that affects your large intestine and causes symptoms such as cramping, abdominal pain, excessive gas, mucus in the stool, bloating, diarrhea, constipation or alternative bouts of diarrhea and constipation. About 10-15% of the world population suffers from IBS which is a chronic condition. This means that you will have to manage it long term.
Don’t worry, only a very small number of people exhibit symptoms that are high in severity. Most people with the condition can easily manage their symptoms by controlling their diet, lifestyle and stress factors.
Here are some easy yet effective ways to manage IBS symptoms:
Be Aware Of The Triggers
Unlike several other ailments, IBS relief cannot be found by simply taking medication. You may have to combine a variety of strategies to reduce your symptoms. But before you start, you need to be aware of what triggers this condition. Being informed of the trigger factors can help you avoid them a great deal. The three main triggers of IBS include food, stress, and hormones.
You could be allergic or have an intolerance for a particular food and many people tend to experience severe IBS symptoms when they happen to ingest certain food or drinks such as wheat, dairy products, cabbage, beans, citrus fruits, etc. Some people experience worse symptoms when they are highly stressed. But be informed that while stress can aggravate symptoms, It doesn’t cause IBS symptoms. And hormones play a vital role in triggering IBS symptoms such as gas or bloating. Women are two times more likely than men to suffer from IBS. And find their symptoms worsening especially during or around their menstrual periods.
Maintain A Food Journal
One day you can eat something and feel completely fine. But on another unlucky day, eating the same food could make you experience IBS symptoms such as diarrhea, gas, bloating, or an abdominal cramp. You might simply find it to be a mystery. Keeping a food journal can be one good way to help take the randomness away from your IBS symptoms. It can help you keep a track of what you have been consuming, the way you feel afterward and any other circumstances which might have made a difference.
You might be able to trace mysterious patterns that you might not have been aware of. All you need to do is to write down what foods you have been eating alongside other factors such as sleep, menstrual cycle, stress, etc which you think might have been contributing to your IBS symptoms. Just quick notes will do. Perhaps you could even maintain an online journal or jot them down on a ‘notes’ app on your smartphone if you think that would be easier.
Make Dietary Changes
First off, understand that there are some foods you can eat and some which you shouldn’t be, to keep IBS symptoms at bay. Some foods you might be eating could be what trigger your symptoms. Try the elimination diet or the low FODMAP diet. An elimination diet is all about avoiding potential triggers for 1-2 months to assess if they are causing your symptoms.
You could try reintroducing the food to find out if it was causing your distress. Identifying what to avoid or enjoy to control IBS symptoms can do wonders for your health and well-being. And the low FODMAP diet is the only research-recommended diet that has been proved effective at reducing IBS symptoms. All you need to do is restrict your carbs for a good amount of time and then slowly add them back to assess how you can tolerate them.
Up Your Fiber Intake
Needless to say, dietary fiber can help treat constipation, one of the main symptoms of IBS. But note that you need to increase your fiber intake very slowly to give your colon enough time to adjust to the new dietary change. Dietary fiber can be found in vegetables and fruits. Also, beware of bran- many IBS patients have reported that it is irritating to the system and you can try to avoid it as much as possible.
Work on Your Eating methods
Although it might sound silly, focusing on the way you eat and making small changes to it can help ease ( irritable bowel syndrome ) IBS symptoms. You could begin by trying out simple strategies such as eating on a regular and predictable schedule, consuming smaller meals and increasing your frequency. All these simple tricks can do wonders on your bowel functioning.
Indulge In Progressive Relaxation Techniques
These relaxation exercises can help you relax your muscles in your body one after another. They focus on tensing and relaxing various muscle groups. When used alongside abdominal breathing, this technique can offer profound benefits to your level of tension and anxiety and promote a state of deep relaxation. A 1993 study has demonstrated that IBS patients undergoing relaxation training as a treatment for IBS have found their symptoms improve a great deal.
Mindfulness meditation has been reported to reduce the severity of symptoms in those suffering from IBS. It involves focusing your attention on present-moment experience without being judgmental or aware of the body’s sensations and emotions.
You will be paying attention to the experiences of your IBS symptoms without being judgmental about it- without thinking about how painful or stressful they can be. This can effectively treat the psychological factors linked to IBS pain. Several studies have demonstrated that IBS patients who practiced mindfulness experienced reductions in their symptom severity within a quick span of time.
Pop Some Over-the-counter (OTC) Medications
Your doctor might prescribe some OTC medicines including loperamide or bismuth subsalicylate for relief from IBS symptoms. Health experts opine that while these drugs can slow IBS ( irritable bowel syndrome ) pain and symptoms such as diarrhea, these medications cannot really help with other symptoms like swelling or abdominal pain. But beware of the side effects of these medications.
They can give you symptoms such as abdominal cramps, bloating, dry mouth, dizziness and/or constipation. While taking diarrhea medication, take the lowest possible dose and also make sure you don’t take it for a long period of time. Most OTC drugs given for gas relief including simethicone are relatively safe.
Try guided imagery
This is a holistic approach that involves one’s power of imagination in an attempt to bring about certain changes within the body. While there is no scientific research about endorsing these kinds of ways to treat IBS ( irritable bowel syndrome ), there is evidence that it has helped eased several other health conditions. It is a mind-body intervention where your practitioner will help you evoke and generate mental images that stimulate or re-create the sensory perception of sights, sounds, tastes, smells, movements, etc. It is all about using your mind to alter the physical function and promote overall health and well being. Guided imagery is very safe to practice and it is something you can simply try on your own, or maybe with the help of a trained professional.
Get Help on Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) !
When simple techniques do not work anymore it is time to go for counseling or psychotherapy.
Psychological treatments such as cognitive-behavioral therapy and psychotherapy, relaxation therapy, hypnotherapy, etc can help treat IBS. Some people diagnosed with this condition report psychological symptoms including anxiety or depressed mood.
Although not everyone with IBS has symptoms of mental distress, psychological factors might influence many who seek to manage and deal with the condition. Referral for psychological treatment of irritable bowel syndrome can be recommended as part of a multi-component treatment program that can help you better manage your IBS symptoms.
Irritable bowel syndrome can be a real pain in your stomach! But trying out the above-mentioned tips can help alleviate your IBS symptoms easily. However, make sure you discuss these with your doctor before trying any of them and decide what’s right for you.
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