FAQ

How to Reduce Irritable Bowel Symptoms by Changing Your Lifestyle

As with many other things, managing a health condition is often personal. Not everyone with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) needs medication. Especially if you have mild symptoms. Lifestyle changes, such as changing diet, managing stress, and exercising regularly, may be enough to alleviate symptoms. However, for those with moderate to severe symptoms, medication may be needed when lifestyle changes do not improve symptoms enough.

The walls of the intestines are lined with layers of muscle that contract and relax in a coordinated rhythm as they move food through the digestive tract. Also, there is an extensive network of nerves that control the movements of the digestive tract. But sometimes they send sensory signals to the brain, which can be interpreted as pain or discomfort. When communication between the brain and the digestive tract is impaired, irritable bowel syndrome develops. This can lead to cramping sensations and abdominal pain, due to increased nerve sensitivity, as food, gas or stool passes through the intestines. Irritable bowel syndrome is also associated with bowel irregularity, such as diarrhea or constipation, due to impaired motility (movement of the digestive tract).

More serious health problems

In people suspected of having irritable bowel syndrome, certain abdominal symptoms are not associated with this disorder but could signal another underlying problem.

Specifically, symptoms that require prompt medical attention include:

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– presence of blood in the stools,
– rapid or unexplained weight loss,
– Intense or persistent abdominal pain,
– unexplained vomiting,
– severe pain
– difficulty swallowing
– feeling of abdominal mass

Alleviate the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome is a chronic condition, the symptoms of which can get worse and better over time. There is no cure but the symptoms can often be alleviated. Especially through diet, lifestyle and stress management.

More than 60% of people with irritable bowel syndrome report that their symptoms are related to diet in some way. However, symptoms vary widely from person to person. It is therefore difficult to give specific dietary advice that works for all people with this disorder.

However, in general, eating foods high in fiber (especially soluble fiber, like psyllium husk) and drinking plenty of fluids are beneficial for many people with irritable bowel syndrome. It is best to avoid foods and drinks that contribute to gas and bloating. Carbonated and alcoholic drinks, caffeine, raw fruits and vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower should be avoided. Reducing or eliminating gluten may also relieve diarrhea in some patients with irritable bowel syndrome.

FODMAPs to absolutely avoid to reduce pain

Research has shown that certain carbohydrates known as fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols (FODMAPs) can cause abdominal pain, bloating, and gas in people with irritable bowel syndrome. They are found in some fruits and vegetables, wheat, rye, legumes, foods that contain lactose, such as milk, cheese and yogurt, and artificial sweeteners.

Following a low-FODMAP diet may relieve symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. But since many foods contain these compounds, it can be difficult for patients to create such a diet on their own. Because the initial phase of the diet can be quite restrictive, and it is important to reintroduce foods systematically. It may be helpful to find a dietician who is knowledgeable about irritable bowel syndrome. A dietitian can review a patient’s symptoms and dietary needs, discuss recommended changes, and develop an individualized dietary plan to relieve symptoms.

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Reduce stress to reduce symptoms

Stress also affects irritable bowel syndrome. With episodes of greater stress are associated an increase in symptoms. Using stress reduction techniques and participating in activities that relieve stress, such as yoga and meditation, can decrease flare-ups. Working with a therapist on stress management, mindfulness, and behavior modification can also help. In particular to better control stress and therefore reduce symptoms.

Physical activity regulates the functioning of the intestine

People with irritable bowel syndrome are recommended to exercise regularly. Daily physical activity relieves stress, stimulates normal bowel contractions and promotes overall well-being. If lifestyle changes aren’t enough to keep irritable bowel syndrome from interfering with your daily life, see your doctor for more specific investigations.

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