As someone who personally suffers from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), I can tell you life is not a bed of roses. Most of my days are hit-and-miss if I wake up with IBS symptoms or eat something my body doesn’t tolerate. If I’m stressed or eat too much, it can be a literal pain in the gut!
I know there are a lot of you out there who wonder how to cope day-to-day with the symptoms of IBS. So here are some of my symptom-specific tips to help you handle this irritable condition:
Symptom 1: Bloated Gassy Tummy
These tricks usually help me when I’ve eaten something by mistake and as a result have a swollen, bloated stomach:
- Peppermint tea (no sugar; just hot water and tea)
- Peppermint capsules (pure 100% peppermint oil)
- Hot water to drink
- Lying down with your legs flat: This technique helps stretch your abdomen and get things moving.
- Exercise: I sometimes find gentle exercise (such as a brisk walk or jog) helps with my symptoms. I know the last thing you want to do is move, but give it a try!
- A warm bath: Try adding in some lavender oil or bath salts.
- Clean, simple, non-irritating food: Avoid coffee, spice, sugar, garlic, onion and heavy starches.
- Flaxseed: Ground flaxseed can be sprinkled on cereal or added to a variety of different dishes.
- Collagen: adding collagen into your diet can provide lots of benefits to the gut, including helping to heal the lining of the gut and improve digestion
Symptom 2: Constipation
- Ginger tea
- Coffee: This usually helps me, but for some, it could be too irritating. Proceed with caution.
- Turmeric Detox Tea
For constipation it’s helpful to try to strike a balance between soluble and insoluble fiber.
Soluble fiber absorbs water in the bowel and combines with fatty acids to create a gel-like substance, which, in turn, makes the stool soft and easy to pass. Here are some examples:
- Ispaghula husk* (adds bulk and moisture; used to prevent constipation)
- Pumpkin Kernels*
- Chia Seeds*
- Nuts (some are suitable for a low-FODMAP diet)
*Suitable for low FODMAPs
Insoluble fiber adds bulk and moisture to the stool, enabling it to move through the colon faster and more easily. Here are some examples:
- Whole wheat
- Whole grain
- Corn bran
- Seeds (some are suitable for low FODMAP)
- Whole grain couscous
- Brown rice*
- Green beans*
- Dark leafy vegetables*
- Raisins (small quantities for low FODMAP)
- Fruit (some are suitable for low FODMAP)
*Suitable for low FODMAP
Symptom 3: Diarrhea
When you have diarrhea, you need to slow down the digestive system (the opposite of constipation). Here are some of my dietary suggestions:
- Bananas: Contain pectin, an insoluble fiber that absorbs moisture; also contain inulin, a prebiotic which promotes healthy bacteria in the gut. Additionally, bananas contain potassium and an important electrolyte that can diminish with chronic diarrhea.
- White toast
- Blueberries (anti-inflammatory)
- Peppermint tea
- Steamed chicken
- White rice
Symptom 4: Anxiety
We all have good days and bad days, but sometimes the bad can outnumber the good. If you know you have IBS, the best thing you can do is ask yourself, “What am I anxious about?” or “Why do I feel this way?” If the answer is “I don’t know, I’m happy with my life and I have people who care about me,” then this might be a sign your symptoms are hormonal and IBS-related. It’s OK! It is perfectly normal to feel like this, but there are ways to pull yourself out of this mindset. When I feel this way, here’s what helps me:
- Exercise: This will release endorphins, the “happy” hormones. You may feel much better after a gentle jog or walk.
- Talk to a close friend or family member, preferably optimistic conversation. Remember you want to lighten your mood not dwell on your current emotions.
- Go outside, walk your dog or go to a coffee shop with a friend and relax.
- Pets: This is a big one. They calm people, and when I’m feeling blue I know my dog will always get me on my feet and demand a walk. Afterwards, I always feel much better.
- If you have anxiety, take a deep breath and drink some lavender tea or smell lavender. It will automatically relax you.
- Overall, the worst thing you can do is stay home and slip deeper and deeper into your thoughts and feelings. GET MOVING!
Symptom 5: Sugar Cravings
I always get hungry and crave sugar when I have an IBS attack. Unfortunately, no one knows why, but it is regularly reported that IBS sufferers get hungrier and have a tendency to crave sugar. My best advice is don’t cave in, as this can cause weight gain. To satisfy your sweet tooth, try a piece of fruit.
Managing your IBS symptoms by being prepared with these tips will help you avoid those uncomfortably painful days we inevitably experience from time to time. What are your tips and tricks for relieving IBS symptoms? Everyone is different, so remember to listen to your body!
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Note: PLEASE consult with your doctor before making any changes to your diet or medications. The material on this site is provided for educational purposes only, and is not to be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.