Lifestyle Changes to Improve Life with IBS
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a condition that impacts the large intestine. IBS is chronic, meaning those who suffer from IBS sometimes feel trapped in their own bodies and are constantly looking for the nearest restroom, and are constantly worried about what will trigger their next flare-up.
Irritable bowel syndrome doesn’t have to dictate how you live the rest of your life.
At GastroCare LI, our IBS medical professionals can help you make lifestyle changes that can help ease your IBS symptoms and make you feel more comfortable. These lifestyle alterations, in addition to medical treatment, can have you feeling more like yourself again. You can be a person whose life doesn’t always revolve around a disgruntled gut.
After an irritable bowel diagnosis, many individuals may need to consider lifestyle changes. One of the most significant changes that a person may wish to consider is a change in diet. Unfortunately, symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome can be aggravated by certain foods and drinks. Learning what triggers your symptoms and then avoiding those triggers can help you gain some control over the condition.
Some individuals with irritable bowel syndrome find that following a low-FODMAP diet helps curb painful gas, bloating, and diarrhea. Eliminating these foods can sometimes help alleviate some of the common symptoms associated with IBS. FODMAP stands for:
- Alcohols (sugar)
Generally, FODMAP foods are short-chain carbohydrates that can ferment in the large intestine. Examples include beans, cauliflower, artichokes, dairy-based milk, wheat-based products, certain fruits like apples, cherries, and pears.
Other foods that can aggravate IBS symptoms include:
- Carbonated drinks
- Heavily processed foods
For those interested in trying a FODMAP diet, foods that you can incorporate into your meals are:
- Some cheeses, like cheddar or feta
- Almond milk
- Whole grains, like rice and quinoa
- Vegetables like potatoes, cucumber, and zucchini
- Fruits, such as grapes, strawberries, blueberries, and pineapple
Those who choose to go on a FODMAP diet tend to eliminate all trigging foods immediately. Once they get to a baseline where they are not experiencing cramps, bloating, and gastrointestinal distress, they may choose to slowly reincorporate one food at a time to see if it causes a reaction. For example, they might try to reincorporate beans into their diet. If cramping resumes, they know beans are a trigger, and they can avoid that particular food. Next, they may try to reintroduce apples. If apples do not cause bloating or cramps, they may choose to add that fruit back into their diet rotation.
As you do when starting any new diet, consult your physician first. Talk to them about your symptoms, concerns, and your dietary needs. Drastically altering your diet without the help of a doctor can cause other serious health problems.
Keep a Food Diary
One of the ways you can make dietary changes a little easier is by keeping a food diary. It may seem like a chore at first, but getting into the habit of recording what you eat and tracking your IBS symptoms is a great way to make connections between what you eat and the symptoms you experience. Understanding what triggers a flare-up can help you better manage your symptoms and avoid future flare-ups.
To make this change a little simpler, get yourself a beautiful or fun notebook to write in. Or you may want to download a note-taking app to your phone. Take a few moments before every meal to record what you eat. You can also note symptoms that follow and what time they manifested.
Working out may feel like the last thing you want to do when you have an IBS flare-up. However, getting some physical activity can help ease some of the symptoms of IBS. Exercise can have a positive impact on the digestive system. It can also have a positive impact on a person’s emotional health and wellbeing. Exercise boosts the production of endorphins, which are the “feel-good” neurotransmitters produced by the brain. Physical activity can also help lower stress, and in some people, stress can have a negative impact on their IBS symptoms.
Again, before starting a major exercise regime, it is best to consult with your doctor and talk about what physical activities are best for you. If beginning a new routine seems daunting, start small. A walk around the block or a quick trip to the park is all you need to get started. As you get more comfortable, build up your routine from there. Find activities that you enjoy. You may hate running but love tennis. Biking may not be your thing, but weight training could be right up your alley. Experiment and find an activity you like. Exercise doesn’t always need to feel like a chore.
Be More Mindful
You may feel like yoga falls under the “exercise” category, but this routine can do more than tone and strength your body. Some medical studies suggest that yoga can help alleviate some of the symptoms associated with IBS. Some poses may help restore some motility to an irritated digestive tract.
While the physical activity and stretching commonly associated with yoga can help calm an irritated digestive system, yoga is more than exercise. It is a practice that also focuses on relaxation, breathing techniques, and mindfulness. Yoga can help ease stress, a common trigger for IBS issues.
Talk It Out
Changing many aspects of your lifestyle all at once can seem overwhelming. While these changes can help curb your IBS symptoms, they can also cause anxiety and stress, which may trigger IBS flare-ups. Take things one step at a time. You may find it helpful to talk to someone about your feelings and the challenges you face coping with an IBS diagnosis or lifestyle changes.
Professional therapy is one way to sort through your emotions and gain some clarity about your situation. A professional is a non-biased, neutral third party who may be able to teach you coping skills or be a shoulder to lean on. IBS support groups may also be a helpful way to understand your diagnosis and talk to others about symptom management techniques. IBS can be an embarrassing condition to talk about for some people. Discussing your condition with other people who share your fears and concerns can be both therapeutic and enlightening.
For More Information
If you need more information on lifestyle changes you can make to ease your IBS symptoms, or if you are interested in more treatment options, contact GastroCare LI today. Our professionals can help you effectively diagnose and manage irritable bowel syndrome.