By Lisa Pecos
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) affects as much at 21 percent of the general population, yet there is currently no known cause or cure. This common disorder affects the large intestine and causes symptoms such as:
- Abdominal pain
Without a cure, the best those suffering from IBS can do is manage their symptoms. Fortunately, many with IBS don’t have severe symptoms and those that do can often control them naturally through diet and lifestyle changes.
Managing Your IBS Symptoms
The following 5 natural treatments for IBS can help you manage symptoms and relieve the discomfort associated with IBS:
It may be the last thing you feel like doing when you’re feeling bloated or having cramps, but exercise offers several benefits for managing IBS. Exercise has been proven to relieve stress, which can make IBS symptoms worse. It can also stimulate intestinal contractions, which can help with your bowel discomfort. The recommended amount of activity for the average person is at least 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week.
2. Experiment with your fiber intake
Fiber can be tricky for those with IBS. While it can ease constipation, too much fiber can also cause cramping and bloating. The key to using fiber to better manage your IBS symptoms is to experiment with it and find the amount that’s best for you. You can do this by gradually increasing the amount of fiber in your diet over a few weeks. If you find that your symptoms get worse, then slowly cut back to find a good balance. You can get more fiber from whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, or speak to your doctor about a fiber supplement.
3. Follow a meal schedule
By eating at regular times, you may be able to help regulate your bowel function. Avoid skipping meals and try to eat meals at the same time every day. If you have IBS with diarrhea, eating smaller meals more frequently may help you feel better, while those with constipation should try eating larger meals that are rich in fiber to help get the food moving through your system.
4. Add a probiotic to your diet
Probiotics are the “good bacteria” in your gut. Those with IBS may not have enough of these bacteria. Adding a probiotic supplement to your diet may improve symptoms of IBS, such as bloating, gas, and diarrhea, according to the American College of Gastroenterology. Speak to your gastroenterologist for recommendations and whether probiotics are right for you.
5. Avoid common trigger foods and beverages
Certain foods and drinks have been associated with increased symptoms in those with IBS. Foods that are known to cause gas, such as beans and cabbage, as well as artificial sweeteners should be avoided as often as possible. Keeping a food diary to track what you consume and your symptoms can help you pinpoint your triggers. Your doctor may also recommend that you follow a special low FODMAP diet, which reduces or eliminates certain carbohydrates that are hard to digest.
If you’re having trouble managing your IBS symptoms, speak to your doctor about other natural treatments available, such as massage and counselling.