IBS symptoms – gas, bloating, frequent trips to the bathroom – can be unpleasant to talk about. Because IBS symptoms are often alternating and unpredictable, ranging from constipation to diarrhea, doctors usually develop individual treatment regimens for people who have IBS.
If you’re looking for natural, drug-free ways to troubleshoot and improve your IBS symptoms, our suggestions may help.
1. Keep a Symptom Diary
To identify what triggers a flare-up of symptoms, dedicate a notebook to logging how you feel every day. Note what you ate, your stress level, exercise activity, and any other noteworthy events, such as eating at a restaurant. For determining a pattern, it’s much easier if you have a record to look back to.
2. Avoid Problem Foods
Some foods are commonly known cause to gas and cause gastrointestinal distress – for anyone. You may want to steer clear of these foods because they are difficult to digest:
- cabbage, cauliflower, beans, broccoli, dairy products, and chocolate
- fried foods, meats and other fatty foods
- soda, energy drinks, alcoholic beverages, and coffee and caffeinated drinks
- artificial sweeteners in diet soda, gum, and candies.
3. Consider an Elimination Diet
Dietary changes can be important in helping to control IBS symptoms, but identifying the trigger foods that seem to set off symptoms can be challenging. You may want to speak to your doctor about a plan for an elimination diet.
The International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders recommends making a list of foods you think may be offenders – perhaps dairy products, nuts, coffee, etc. – and then eliminating those foods one by one over a 12-week period. If you do not notice improvements in your symptoms after 12 weeks, you can begin eating that particular food again, and try eliminating the next food on your list.
4. Monitor Fiber Intake
Fiber can be a double edge sword for people living with the symptoms of IBS. While it can ease constipation, it can make other symptoms worse.
There are two types of fiber – soluable and insoluble – and our bodies need both. Soluable is found in beans, peas, oats, barely, and fruits, and helps soften stool so it can slide through the GI tract more easily. Insoluable is found in fruits and vegetables (specifically in the stalks, skins, and seeds), as well as whole grains, cereals and nuts. It isn’t broken down by the gut and absorbed into the bloodstream.
If you think fiber is at the root cause of your IBS symptoms, you may want to talk to your doctor about trying to eliminate it – or one of the two types - from your diet. Your doctor may also recommend taking a fiber supplement rather than eating foods that contain fiber.
5. Come Up With a Stress Management Plan
Stress has been proven to aggravate IBS. While it’s difficult not to be stressed when you have IBS, taking part in an activity that helps you manage it can be empowering. Planning to partake in any enjoyable activity regularly can help.
Consider relaxation techniques that appeal to you, such as deep breathing, visualization, meditation, and yoga. Seeking out a support group or the help of a therapist or mental health professional may also help with dealing with complication of having IBS.
6. Incorporate Exercise Into Your Life
Speaking of alleviating stress, getting regular exercise is a great way to reduce it, which also helps alleviate the symptoms of IBS by stimulating regular intestinal contractions. If you’re new to exercise, be conscious of adding movement into your day – take stairs instead of the elevator, park further away from the store, etc. You can start slow with some low-impact cardio, like walking or biking, and listen to your body’s cues. Working up to a fitness routine of 30 minutes 5 days a week is ideal, as long as you’re feeling up to it.
7. Try Peppermint or Ginger Tea
While caffeinated products can exacerbate the symptoms of IBS, a cup of peppermint tea each day may help to relax your intestines and relieves gas pain. Just be sure to buy tea with real peppermint, as opposed to black tea with peppermint flavoring.
Ginger tea can also help sooth IBS symptoms and other digestive problems. You can either put fresh ginger into a cup of hot water, or buy ginger tea bags.
8. Consider Digestive Enzymes and Dietary Supplements
Taking digestive enzymes with meals may help break down food. Likewise, nutrients found in some natural digestive supplements are easy for the body to absorb, and help heal the gut lining.
Intestive and Seacure are whole-food supplements made by Proper Nutrition from protein-rich white fish. They are predigested so they are easily absorbed by the body, and contain bioactive peptides that work to reduce inflammation that results from IBS, Crohn’s disease and other digestive issues.