Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a common disorder that affects the large intestine – aka your colon – and 9% – 23% percent of people worldwide, and between 25-45 million people of all ages in the U.S. alone, have it. Symptoms include cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, diarrhea and constipation. Treatments are available to help manage symptoms, but not all treatments help all people, and not all people want to take a pill. In honor of IBS Awareness Month in April, I’ve rounded up some natural ways to alleviate symptoms associated with IBS.
- Eat more of these foods. Healthy fats, which can be found in salmon, olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds, as well as complex carbs, like steamed vegetables and whole grains are best for people with IBS. In fact, a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that when IBS patients ate foods made from the ancient grain KAMUT® brand khorasan wheat, their IBS symptoms significantly decreased. Eating food made from modern wheat produced no significant difference in patient symptoms. Also, foods containing probiotics, like some yogurt, relieve some symptoms of IBS, like bloating and gas.
- Avoid these foods and drinks. Sodas and other sugary drinks, caffeine, alcohol, fried or processed foods, meats, oils, margarine, dairy and spicy foods all obstruct digestion or irritate the intestines, so it’s best to steer clear of them, or at least minimize intake of them. Also, it’s best to avoid foods that are known to cause flatulence, such as Brussels sprouts, broccoli and cabbage.
- Get your fiber. High fiber foods, like beans, fruits and vegetables, can help ease some symptoms of IBS, like constipation. However, fiber can also worsen other symptoms of IBS, like cramping and gas. The key is to ingest the foods gradually over several weeks, and drink a lot of water to keep the fiber moving smoothly through your system.
- Exercise. The reason you keep hearing about the benefits of exercise is because there are so many! Specifically, for people with IBS, exercise keeps their digestive system working smoothly. Just 30 minutes of some type of exercise a day is helpful.
- Don’t stress out. Stress is one of the factors that can trigger an IBS flare-up, so figure out the best de-stressor for you, whether it be meditation, yoga, breathing exercises, physical exercise, etc, and the next time you feel stressed out, practice it.
- Kick the nicotine habit. In addition to the fact that it causes cancer, smoking contributes to IBS flare-ups as well, so it’s time to give up that nicotine addiction once and for all.
Do you or someone you know have IBS? What do you find to be the best ways to naturally manage symptoms?