What is the best way to manage Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)?
According to studies, two out of ten people in the UK will suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) during their lifetime, with women twice as likely to suffer as men. And yet, many sufferers endure years of discomfort and severe symptoms before they even receive a diagnosis. For those who suffer from IBS, symptoms can be sporadic, leaving them feeling anxious about when it could next flare-up.
The most common symptoms of IBS include bloating, cramps, diarrhoea, and constipation but persistent fatigue, a lack of energy and back aches can also signify an underlying problem. Chances are, if you haven’t experienced it yourself, you know at least one person close to you who has – cases of IBS in the UK are rising at an alarming pace. So, what exactly can you do to manage the symptoms of IBS to help regain control over your gut health and live a happier, more fulfilled life.
Reduce stress levels
General downtime – reading, listening to music, walking or a warm bath – can work wonders, especially alongside a temporary elimination diet where you cut out foods that seem to cause flare-ups. Stress and IBS often go hand in hand, with many sufferers noticing an exacerbation of symptoms in times of stress. The symptoms of IBS can themselves further trigger anxiety and stress – prompting a vicious cycle.
When we’re stressed, we experience a surge in the hormones adrenaline, cortisol and noradrenaline that prepare us to survive a threat to our lives. Our heart rate accelerates, blood flow to the brain and muscles increases by up to 500 per cent and as a result decreases in the gut, causing conditions inside the stomach become painfully acidic.
If you suffer from IBS, doing things to lower your levels of cortisol can have a remarkable effect. Learn about mindfulness and breathing techniques and practice them as much as possible throughout the day, particularly before eating.
Take a probiotic
Studies have shown that an increase in healthy bacteria may help to reduce stomach bloating, cramping and stool frequency, for those suffering from IBS. In people with IBS, symptoms may be triggered when there’s some kind of imbalance between helpful, good bacteria and the other not so friendly species. This could manifest itself in the symptoms commonly associated with IBS. So, regaining the balance is key to a healthy digestive system and for relieving IBS symptoms. Probiotics help by topping up the levels of good bacteria in the gut, to bring balance to the variety of microbes in the gut.
Correct your diet
Cut out potential allergens and intolerances to help reduce the level of inflammation within the gut. Eliminate processed foods, choose good quality proteins and reduce sugar intake, whilst increasing antioxidants by eating plenty of varied vegetables. Aim to incorporate sources of friendly bacteria into your diet. They are gentle on your digestive system and are present in asparagus, onions, leeks, shallots, spring onions and fennel. These are known as ‘prebiotic’ foods.
It may also be helpful to work with a nutritionist to identify your trigger foods and create a nutritional plan tailored to your needs to ensure you’re getting what you need from your diet.
If you’d like more help managing your IBS, click here to book a consultation with our GP or nutritionist.
Disclaimer: Please be aware that results and benefits may vary from patient to patient taking into consideration factors such as age, lifestyle and medical history.