The health of our bowels tells us a lot about our overall health. So if you suffer from variable bowel function (ie. alternating constipation and diarrhea), stomach pains, low appetite, gas or bloating, these may be signs that you have Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and you need a change. In some cases, these symptoms may be indicative of a more serious concern; therefore, you should always be evaluated by a qualified healthcare practitioner (especially if symptoms appear abruptly). Yet in many situations, there are simple changes that you can make to improve your bowel habits and benefit your overall health.
If you’ve been diagnosed with IBS or you suspect that you have IBS, here are some simple steps worth trying:
1. Increase Fibre – this is a well-known tip but certainly one that cannot be overlooked. Fibre is found in a variety of foods and can be either soluble (ie. oatmeal, barley, legumes and some vegetables) or insoluble (found in wheat, cereals and the skins of fruits and vegetables). Keep in mind that some fibres may help and others may aggravate. Try starting with soluble fibres and, as with any dietary change, be sure to gradually increase fibre levels and re-evaluate as you go.
2. More Water – is one of the simple solutions to help constipation predominant IBS. Maybe your stool just needs more water in it to help it run smoother? Once again, gradually increase and re-evaluate as you go.
3. Develop a Routine – if the types of foods, the timing of meals and your lifestyle habits are all over the place, your bowels will be too. First, start by timing your meals regularly each day. Next, retrain your brain to time your bowel movements. This may sound odd, but for those with constipation-predominant IBS, even going to sit on the toilet everyday at the same time (say 9 am) will help to bridge that disconnect between your brain and bowels.
4. Exercise – exercise is important for so many aspects of your health and your bowels are not an exception. If you suffer from constipation-predominant IBS, exercise is especially helpful to move food through your large intestine and prevent excess water reabsorption. Overall, exercise will also help your body and bowels to develop a routine.
5. Probiotics – if you’ve yet to try a probiotic, I’m sure you’ve heard of them. Probiotics contain beneficial bacteria needed to breakdown food in our gut, relieve inflammation, and keep the cells of our gastrointestinal tract healthy and functional. This ultimately leads to regular bowel movements and less gas and bloating. If you did not find benefit with a probiotic the first time, it may just be that you did not have the right strains or proper dose. Consider a retrial with another reputable brand.
6. Stress Management – it’s no secret that stress is a common trigger for many IBS sufferers. If you are in a constant state of stress, your sympathetic nervous system is in over-drive and all of your energy is focused on being alert – not on digesting your food.
7. Avoid Food Sensitivities – perhaps your body is not able to digest certain proteins and, therefore, you get gas, bloating and overall digestive discomfort. While there are lab tests available to determine your food sensitivities, often a trial run of avoiding common food triggers can do the trick. These include gluten, dairy, egg, soy and citrus.
8. Try Herbal Teas – certain herbs have “carminitive” properties that help to relieve bowel cramping and gas through anti-spasmodic action. Having a tea after a heavy meal is certainly worth a try to alleviate indigestion. These herbs include peppermint, chamomile and fennel. **Note: sometime peppermint may aggravate symptoms of heartburn, so be cautious.
Do you have any personal experience with these suggestions? Did any of these lifestyle changes help? Perhaps there are other lifestyle changes that should have made the top 10 list. Leave us a comment and let us know!