Last updated: July 21, 2019
Richard Honaker M.D.
Primary Care Physician
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Living with irritable bowel syndrome can be tricky if not properly treated. Check out five simple ways to manage your symptoms.
Living with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can be tricky particularly when you’re constantly dealing with symptoms like cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation. If you couple this with a sensitive gut that can react to anything ranging from fruits and vegetables that contain poorly absorbed sugars to wheat based products and spicy foods; it gets difficult to keep your digestive system in check.
Finding the right strategy and creating a routine can help you deal with the symptoms and avoid flare-ups. Even though finding what works for you involves trial and error, is time consuming and may require a bit of experimentation, it is definitely worth it.
Here are some recommendations to help you relieve (and even avoid) the symptoms associated with IBS.
Become your own Chef
When living with IBS, you have to be mindful of the ingredients that go into your meals. This is why it is not possible to rely on restaurants or ready meals. May of these meals may contain dairy products and sugary syrups which aren’t the best for your digestive system.
Plus rich or fatty foods, which are usually the most easily available dine-out or take-out options are definitely a no-no. These include fast foods, cakes, biscuits, deep-fried foods, sausages, and pizzas.
Hence, it is better to start cooking at home so that you have control over what goes in your meals. This is not only healthier but also helps you avoid unnecessary flare-ups.
The IBS Network has some great recipes for a sensitive gut which can be a good starting point for you.
Keep a track of what you eat
As simple as this sounds, this really does help. Documenting how your body reacts to different foods will help you identify what does and doesn’t work for you. As IBS affects everyone differently, once you know your own personal triggers, you can manage your symptoms in a more effective way.
Though, don’t be too quick to remove something from your diet. If you’ve had a reaction at least two times, then restrict the consumption of that particular food. If you are unsure, it is always a good idea to consult a doctor and/or visit a dietician to ensure you’re getting the nutrition you need.
Secondly, listen to your body. For instance, if constipation is your concern, consume more insoluble fibre and increase your water intake. Having whole grains and leafy greens can bulk up the stool and relieve the symptoms.
Similarly, if you’re experiencing bouts of diarrhea, try to consume more soluble fibre. As it soaks up liquid in your intestines, it can help provide relief.
A diet plan that works for you
Focusing on your diet can yield many long term benefits. A special diet, called the low FODMAP diet, has gained significant popularity. This diet works for people living with IBS because it limits the consumption of certain foods that contain carbohydrates that are hard to digest.
These foods include certain fruits and vegetables, juices, dairy products, wheat and rye products, honey and foods with high-fructose corn syrup and candies.
You can discuss this diet with your dietician and create a plan that works for you. You can start with more exclusions and monitor your symptoms. Gradually, if the symptoms are under control, you can add foods that contain FODMAPs back into your diet.
Additionally, according to the NHS, it is advisable to not eat more than 3 portions of fresh fruit a day and not consume more than 3 cups of tea or coffee a day. Once you have a diet plan in place, you’ll see a reduction in flare-ups.
Exercise! Exercise! Exercise!
A recent study showed that increased physical activity plays an important role in improving gastrointestinal symptoms. It documented that physically active individuals with IBS faced less symptom deterioration compared to physically inactive individuals.
Hence, try to incorporate some sort of exercise in your daily routine. This could be anything ranging from walking and jogging to swimming and cycling. Exercise helps release endorphins, relieves stress, and positively impacts your digestive system.
Probiotics comprise of good bacteria which help regulate the digestive system and some recent research has shown that certain strains of bacteria can relieve IBS symptoms.
According to The Association of UK Dieticians, when you decide to incorporate probiotic supplements, yogurt or fermented milk drinks, in your diet, try to consume them consistently for at least four weeks to see if they improve your symptoms.
These changes to your diet and lifestyle can help you in living with IBS and enable you to control the symptoms associated with it. If you still have any specific questions about IBS, dietary restrictions, or medications, chat with one of our doctors today, and receive prompt, genuine medical advice.
Disclaimer: This article provides general information and is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease or medical condition. If you require specific advice, please consult one of our medical professionals through the app. However, in case of an emergency, please call 911.
About Richard Honaker M.D.
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