Whilst irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is one of the most commonly experienced gastrointestinal disorders, our understanding of the condition and the conventional methods available to treat it are often unsatisfactory. If your irritable bowel is getting you down, read on for 5 natural approaches to manage IBS that might help.
1. Dietary Changes
The first line of intervention for IBS should always be making dietary changes. Exclusion diets, where commonly aggravating foods are removed for a period of time before being methodically reintroduced to see which elicit symptoms, may benefit IBS sufferers. Wheat, dairy, eggs, caffeinated beverages, yeast, potatoes, and citrus fruits are the most common culprits. Diets high in fat, refined carbohydrates, and sugar alcohols are also associated with digestive discomfort. As exclusion diets can be difficult to follow and it’s important to ensure you are still getting all the nutrients you need, it’s wise to consult a registered nutrition practitioner for guidance before embarking on one. Avoid entirely skipping meals as this has been shown to make IBS symptoms worse.
2. Fermented Foods And Supplements
An imbalance in gut microorganisms has been observed in over 70% of IBS sufferers. Many people find that supporting a healthy balance of bacteria in the gut can relieve symptoms. Traditionally fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, live yoghurt, kefir and miso are a great way to do this and can easily be incorporated into your diet on a daily basis. Numerous studies have found that live bacteria supplements, such as Bio-Kult Everyday (£10.48), may help modulate the composition of bacteria in the gut and can be beneficial in IBS. In the largest-ever double-blind randomised controlled trial (the gold standard for medical research) of probiotic supplements in IBS-diarrhoea type patients ever-conducted, those who received Bio-Kult saw abdominal pain decrease by 70%, reduction in bowel movements and overall improvement in quality of life. What’s more 34% of participants advised all symptoms had disappeared.
3. Bone Broth
Bone broth/stock has traditionally been used across the world for centuries and is believed to help support the health of the gut lining by providing a number of important nutrients. It’s best to use the bones and cartilage from organic or grass-fed animals, and make up a big batch which can be frozen in portions to be used later in soups, stews, dhal or as a warming drink.
Emily Rutherwood, trainer and studio manager at FS8 Oxford Circus says mild or low impact exercise, such as Pilates, has been shown to manage IBS symptoms and alleviate bloating and gas production in several studies. You can introduce simple Pilates poses into your daily routine, such as child’s pose, or cat-cow. For child’s pose, start on your knees, with them slightly apart, and with your feet touching. Hinge your hips back so that your bottom is touching your heels. Stretch your arms forward so that you feel a sustained, long stretch through your back, with your head facing the floor. For cat cow, start on all fours. Breathing in, arch your back so that it curves into a downward facing moon shape. Looking at the floor, sit in that position for a few seconds feeling the stretch through your upper back. Then on an exhale, curve your back the other way, and look up towards to ceiling.
5. Mind-Body Therapies
Stress and IBS often go hand in hand. Many sufferers notice an exacerbation of symptoms in times of stress, and symptoms being a source of stress in themselves. Clinical evidence suggests that stress reduction techniques and mind-body approaches based on psychological interventions. So things like hypnotherapy and cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) may be useful. Mindfulness, which promotes acceptance instead of control of IBS symptoms, is often delivered in conjunction with CBT. In conjunction with CBT, mindfulness exercises have been shown to help manage IBS symptoms. There are many courses available, and even apps which can be downloaded onto your phone, providing guided mindfulness exercises.
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