Being someone who has had IBS for years now, learning ways to combat IBS symptoms in my life has seemed like an odd hobby at some points, and at other times, it's been an unwanted job! IBS symptoms can be debilitating. When you don’t feel like doing social things, eating with others, or have a hard time working due to IBS symptoms like gas, diarrhea, bloating and constipation, many people don’t understand. For me, IBS symptoms also contributed to my depression. I finally found some truly effective ways to combat IBS symptoms in my life and finally experienced relief. If you suffer IBS at all, read these tips. They can truly change the way your digestive system works, which directly influences your mood and appetite. If you need someone to listen to your struggles, feel free to leave a comment as I’m more than happy to help!
1. Get a Good Book
The first, and one of the best ways to combat IBS symptoms, is to get a good book about IBS. I recommend the website, Eating For IBS by Heather Van Vorous, and checking out her list of approved foods for IBS at helpforibs.com. Heather is a renowned and experienced professional with IBS and her book can help you learn about where to start in altering your diet and lifestyle to help with your symptoms.
2. Eliminate Sugars
One of the most beneficial ways and effective ways to combat IBS symptoms is to eliminate sugars of different kinds. This can be a very hard thing to do at first, but trust me, it works! For someone who lived with IBS for years and also ate lots of sugary foods, even natural ones, I can testify this is one valid recommendation you’ll want to listen to. Sugars of any kind ferment in the gut, even natural sugars from healthy foods, and fermentation causes gas and bloating. Foods that are especially problematic include fruits high in fructose such as pears, apples, bananas, raisins and prunes. It can be hard since so many people are able to enjoy these foods and often, these foods are recommended for many different health purposes. However, if you have IBS, they can cause severely painful gas, diarrhea, bloating and/or constipation. Berries in small amounts and citrus fruits seem to be the most well tolerated fruits since they are low in sugars. All refined sugars and excess or natural sugars such as lactose found in dairy foods must also be avoided. Kefir and plain, unsweetened yogurt seem to be two dairy foods well tolerated since the probiotics in these foods can actually relieve symptoms. It should be noted, however, that for severe sufferers, even kefir and yogurt can still cause symptoms. Gluten-free diets also seem to be effective, since gluten-containing foods like wheat that contain a type of carbohydrate called fructans, can cause IBS symptoms.
3. Eat an IBS Friendly Diet
Foods that are well tolerated for IBS include meats, eggs and animal protein, since these foods have no fiber or sugar. Fiber is important for a diet and something every IBS eater should include, but since fiber has an effect on the stomach and bowels, you must be smart about what fibers you eat. You’ll want to check out Heather’s Help for IBS website to learn more, but for the most part, soluble fibers in potatoes, pumpkin, squash, oatmeal and rice seem to be the best options, while foods higher in insoluble fiber like beans, nuts, seeds, and bran seem to be the most problematic. Even foods high in soluble fiber that are rich in sugars can be problematic because of their sugar content, so finding exactly what foods are right for you is essential, despite the difficulty. Also avoid chewing gum, which is rich in sugar alcohols that cause bloating and gas, and chew your food slowly so you don't eat in a hurry and swallow excess air that can lead to bloating.
4. Avoid Irritants
Part of a healthy IBS diet is also avoiding irritants that hurt or disrupt normal GI movement. These irritants include caffeine, spicy foods, alcohol and acidic foods. If you suffer constipation, these foods may seem to offer relief, but over time can inflame the lining of the intestines. If you suffer diarrhea, be sure to avoid these foods since they can irritate the bowels and speed up transit time too quickly.
5. Calm Your Self down
IBS is directly influenced by our nerves, which is one reason it can be so hard to control. When we are stressed, our nerves in our stomachs are the first place we notice most often. Our neurotransmitters in the brain send messages to the gut that cause it to pump excess cortisol and become stressed. I understand how hard this can be to control, but I find that taking a magnesium supplement, along with practicing calming exercises like yoga in meditation, always help. Painful stomach cramps or gas are also results of stress, and I've found herbal teas have provided the best relief for this ailment. Herbal tea is very effective at calming the nerves as well, since it is warm and soothing. I drink it several times throughout the day for this reason.
6. Implement IBS Herbs
One of the most beneficial things I have found to help with IBS is using herbs that help with IBS, which Heather recommends on her website. Peppermint tea, chamomile tea, fennel tea and anise tea are always in my cabinet. Each of these help with IBS greatly. I also find chewing on a teaspoon of a mixture of fennel seeds, caraway seeds and anise seeds help greatly in my digestion, transit time, and they eliminate gas and bloating. You can drink these teas with meals and get the same effect.
7. Get Some Exercise
One very important way to combat IBS symptoms is to include regular exercise in your day, every day if possible. Exercise stimulates the GI tract and calms the nervous system. Exercise also helps move food through the body efficiently, relieves gas and bloating, and treats insomnia. Insomnia can lead to stress when you don’t get enough rest, which influences your IBS symptoms indirectly. Be sure to choose relaxing exercises like walking, yoga and Pilates that can help IBS, and avoid excessive running, which can heighten cortisol levels that raise stress levels.
Do you know anyone suffering from IBS, or do you suffer from IBS symptoms? I’ve found most people deal with IBS more than we realize, but no one seems to feel like they can talk about it. IBS is just like any other health issue and it is important to spread the news of what can work so we can all help each other in relieving symptoms. For more information, please feel free to the Help for IBS website.