Lifestyle Changes You Should Make If You Have Irritable Bowel Syndrome
There are currently between 25 million and 45 million people in the U.S. who struggle with irritable bowel syndrome. This disorder causes abdominal discomfort or pain and alters bowel habits. 2 out of 3 individuals with irritable bowel syndrome are women.
The disorder can occur at any age, even in children. While the exact cause of irritable bowel syndrome has not yet been discovered, medical researchers believe that the disorder is the result of a disturbance in the way the gut, the brain, and the nervous system interact.
Most people with irritable bowel syndrome are under the age of 50. Although stress was not found to lead to the development of the disorder, it can worsen or trigger symptoms in people who have it.
It is important to note that the symptoms people with irritable bowel syndrome experience can greatly interfere with their daily routine, affecting the emotional, professional, and social life of the sufferers. The symptoms of the disorder are quite unpredictable and contradictory, as diarrhea can alternate with constipation, for instance.
Sadly, irritable bowel syndrome can limit the potential of the person who has it. Between 20% and 40% of gastroenterology visits are due to irritable bowel syndrome. Fortunately, there is a treatment for the disorder, but it only works for keeping symptoms under control, as there is no cure for irritable bowel syndrome at the moment.
However, in addition to medical treatment, people who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome can make some changes in their lifestyle in order to lower the intensity and the frequency of their symptoms. The following article will explore five essential and effective changes you can make to your lifestyle if you struggle with irritable bowel syndrome. Nevertheless, if you experience very distressing symptoms that prevent you from leading a normal life, we strongly advise you to seek medical attention.
1. Adjust Your Diet to Avoid Foods that May Trigger Symptoms
If you do not already follow a diet that has been recommended to you by a medical professional to ease the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, you should try making some changes to what you eat. More specifically, you should avoid fermentable oligo-di, monosaccharides, and polyols, which are known as FODMAPs for short.
Although you may not have heard this term before, you are most likely eating the foods it refers to, which include beans, milk, bread, yogurt, cauliflower, pears, and onions. These products start fermenting in your large intestine shortly before you eat them, which will cause you to experience bloating, abdominal pain, gas, and stomach distention.
Consequently, avoiding FODMAPs may lead to the alleviation of your irritable bowel syndrome. If you wonder what foods are okay to eat if you have irritable bowel syndrome, some of the best are lean meats, eggs, salmon, vegetables such as potatoes, broccoli, carrots, and tomatoes, nuts, fruits such as bananas, avocados, kiwi, lemon, and strawberries, arugula, kale, and seeds.
Numerous people with irritable bowel syndrome experience significant relief of their symptoms when following a low FODMAPs diet. Usually, this way of eating is implemented in two phases, with the first one excluding all triggering foods and the second one gradually adding them back in your diet to observe if you have developed a tolerance to these foods.
2. Stay Away from Alcohol, Tobacco, and Caffeine
When it comes to the most triggering habits for irritable bowel syndrome, alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine are the big three. Alcohol is very irritating to the gastrointestinal system, so if you drink alcoholic beverages, you may notice a worsening in your symptoms. Furthermore, alcohol is a toxin that disrupts the intestinal system, which once again can trigger unpleasant symptoms. Two of the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, heartburn, and reflux, can intensify if you smoke, which is why it would be essential to quit tobacco use altogether.
As for caffeine, the habit of having a cup of coffee in the morning may be challenging to break, but it is highly recommended, as caffeine has laxative effects. It stimulates the muscles in your colon, producing a laxative effect soon after drinking it. You can try slowly reducing the amount of coffee you drink every day to wean yourself off caffeine, and you can replace it with herbal tea or with any other kind of tea that does not contain caffeine. Giving up these habits may yield considerable benefits for people who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome, just like a suitable diet can do.
3. Keep Your Stress Levels Under Control by Practicing Yoga
Regrettably, the vast majority of people have a lot of stress in their daily life, which may stem from their demanding job, having too many errands to run, or taking care of their home and family. Nevertheless, you can manage your stress levels by joining a yoga class or, if your time does not allow it, you can start practicing it by yourself with the help of online tutorials. Stress is known as one of the primary triggers for the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, which is why it is crucial to avoid it as much as possible.
Yoga promotes relaxation and is one of the most effective ways in which you can get your stress levels in check. It is worthy of note that the mind and the body are strongly connected, and we have what is known as the gut-brain axis that supports this connection. Therefore, by practicing yoga, you will balance both your physical health and your mental health and ultimately keep stress at bay. Studies that compared a diet low in FODMAPs with practicing yoga found that they are equally beneficial for people who struggle with irritable bowel syndrome.
4. Stay Hydrated
If you have irritable bowel syndrome, chances are that your bowel habits range from one extreme to the other, namely from diarrhea to constipation. Drink plenty of water to avoid constipation, particularly if you are also increasing the amount of fiber you eat. Moreover, staying hydrated is also essential if you have diarrhea, as this symptom can easily lead to dehydration since you eliminate a lot of water through your bowel movements.
For people who do not have the habit of drinking plenty of water, it is a good idea to start drinking some water with every meal and snack so as to make staying hydrated part of your daily routine. You can add a few slices of fruit to your water if you get bored of plain water, such as oranges or lemons. Medical studies found that individuals with irritable bowel syndrome are more susceptible to dehydration than those without the disorder, so staying hydrated is really important if you have it.
5. Eat Slowly
The last piece of advice if you suffer from irritable bowel syndrome is to take your time when you eat, particularly if your stomach is completely empty. If you eat in a hurry, you are more likely to experience symptoms, as your digestive system will suddenly have to deal with a large amount of food. Thereby, you should try to eat slowly and chew well with every bite.
Several ways in which you can make sure you are taking it easy when you are eating are ensuring that your mouth is empty before taking the next bite and putting down the cutlery between your bites. To create the perfect atmosphere for eating if you have irritable bowel syndrome, you should also have your TV turned off, and you should avoid using your phone, too.
Across our country, up to 75% of people who have irritable bowel syndrome are undiagnosed, which is alarming, as they cannot benefit from proper treatment that could help ease their symptoms to a great extent. Thus, if you experience symptoms like stomach pain and cramps after eating and bloating, diarrhea, and constipation, it is high time you visit a specialist to determine whether you have the disorder or another health problem. Know that only a medical professional can give you a diagnosis, as well as the treatment you need to follow, in addition to the lifestyle changes we discussed in this article.