Irritable bowel syndrome is a common chronic gastrointestinal disorder, which affects nearly 15% of the global population. However, there are no effective medicines or treatments to help those suffering from this condition, you can adopt certain strategies to help reduce the intensity of its symptoms.
Are you living with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)? It can be painful, stressful and adversely affect your quality of life. Managing IBS presents numerous challenges every day. Recent research regarding treatment of the disease suggests novel molecules may help in selected cases. While there is no single medicine or diet that can help everyone with this condition, there are some things you can do to help manage the symptoms. OnlyMyHealth editorial team talked to Dr. Milan Chetri, General Physician, Apollo 24|7, to know about tips to cope from irritable bowel syndrome.
What is IBS?
IBS is a functional gastrointestinal (GI) disorder that can cause uncomfortable and painful symptoms like gas, abdominal discomfort, diarrhoea, constipation, and changes in bowel movement patterns. It's sometimes referred to as a gut-brain interaction disorder, implying that it is associated with the way your gut and brain interact. This disorder can make your bowel muscles contract and make your gut very sensitive.
The increased sensitivity can result in bloating and abdominal pain, while the contracting muscles can lead to constipation, diarrhoea, or both. People with IBS experience these uncomfortable and painful symptoms without showing any visible signs of damage to their digestive tract.
There are four subcategories of IBS, namely:
- Mostly diarrhoea and abdominal discomfort (IBS-D).
- Mostly constipation and abdominal discomfort (IBS-C).
- Alternating loose stools and constipation with abdominal discomfort (IBS-mixed).
- Undefined subtype (IBS-U) — symptoms vary.
Tips for Managing IBS Symptoms
You can take the following measures to relieve and manage the symptoms of IBS:
1. Alter Your Diet
Food is the most common trigger for most IBS symptoms. It’s essential to identify and cut out the foods that are responsible for causing symptoms. The best way to identify foods that improve or exacerbate your symptoms is to keep a food diary for a couple of weeks. In this diary, note down everything you eat, the symptoms you experience, and anything that can cause the symptoms to worsen stress and sleep issues.
The International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD) reports chocolate, caffeine, fibre, and nuts as foods that commonly cause IBS symptoms. Doctors might even advise people with IBS to avoid foods that contain gluten, which is a protein found in barley, rye, and wheat. Moreover, most grains, cereals, bread, pasta, and processed foods are rich in gluten.
2. Exercise Regularly
Incorporating regular exercise in your daily routine can help regulate the bowels and stimulate contractions of your intestines, thereby improving the symptoms of IBS. According to studies, 20 to 30 minutes of physical activity at least thrice every week shows the best results in relieving the symptoms of IBS. It’s highly advisable to increase the duration and frequency of exercise slowly.
3. Reduce Stress
Psychological stressors can lead to a disturbance in the interactions between your digestive system and brain, leading to the exacerbation of IBS symptoms. Relaxation techniques like practising mindfulness and meditation can help reduce stress and improve the quality of life for those who frequently suffer from uncomfortable IBS symptoms. Other techniques you can use include progressive muscle relaxation, visualisation exercises, and diaphragmatic and abdominal breathing. It's one of the best ways to improve your mental and physical well-being.
4. Increase the intake of Fibre and Probiotics
Increasing the intake of fibre makes stool soft and easier to pass, which in turn, helps in improving the constipation symptoms caused by IBS. According to experts, soluble fibre is more helpful in improving IBS symptoms as compared to insoluble fibre. If you are planning to add more fibre to your diet, then increase the amount slowly by not more than 2-3 grams per day.
If you add too much fibre in one go, then it can result in bloating, gas, and sometimes even more abdominal pain. Moreover, IBS symptoms like bloating, diarrhoea, and abdominal pain can be relieved with the help of probiotics, which are healthy bacteria found in certain foods like yoghurt. So, integrate the above-mentioned practices into your everyday routine to help improve IBS symptoms.
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