Lifestyle Tips to Manage Irritable Bowel Syndrome

woman getting out of bed 1 Lifestyle Tips to Manage Irritable Bowel Syndrome Photo Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a disorder that affects the large intestine. It comes with a range of symptoms including stomach pain or discomfort, gas, bloating and diarrhea and/or constipation and affects between 25-45 million people in the United States.

While there’s no known cause, researchers believe contributing factors may include genetics, gut bacteria and stressors. While IBS can be painful, annoying and embarrassing, the good news is it typically doesn’t have any long-term health consequences, and there are many treatments sufferers can use to manage their symptoms, including diet and lifestyle changes.

Here are 10 natural ways to manage Irritable Bowel Syndrome:

1. Stress reduction. While there’s no one trigger of IBS, most people say their symptoms are worse during stressful times such as the holidays or when starting a new job. Experts say that while stress doesn’t cause IBS symptoms, it may aggravate them, so stress management is important for sufferers.

2. Meditation. Not only is meditation a proven stress-reduction technique, but studies have shown that meditation can help relieve IBS symptoms in at least the short term.

3. Psychological therapies. Doctors say the mind and the body must be treated for maximum effectiveness in managing IBS. Options such as hypnotherapy, cognitive behavior therapy and psychodynamic therapy (a form of talk therapy) can all be explored.

4. Exercise. While uncomfortable or embarrassing IBS symptoms may keep some sufferers away from exercise, they should actually do the opposite. Studies have shown that exercise can help alleviate IBS symptoms and help reduce stress.

5. Sleep. While sleep can often be affected by IBS due to pain and discomfort, it’s important for sufferers to get enough sleep — at least eight hours a day. Since not getting enough sleep can stress a body, symptoms are often dependent on the quality of the previous night’s sleep.

6. Diet. There’s no one prescribed diet for IBS sufferers, but in general, foods thought to trigger symptoms include those containing insoluble fiber, caffeine, chocolate, and nuts. One study found an improvement of symptoms in 70 percent of patients who avoided four types of “poorly absorbed, fermentable carbohydrates known as FODMAPs.”

7. Eating schedule. It’s not only what you eat, but how you eat that can affect IBS symptoms. Experts suggest eating meals at regular times and not rushing through them. Eating slowly while sitting down can also help.

8. Turmeric. Due to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, turmeric may help some IBS sufferers. A recent study out of the UK found those who used turmeric had a 53-60 percent reduction in symptoms.

9. Probiotics. While more research is needed, some studies have found the use of lose-dose probiotics to be an effective treatment strategy for IBS.

10. Herbal medications. While there are a variety of herbal medications that may work in alleviating symptoms, STW 5 (Iberogast) is one that has proven effective in studies. STW 5 is made up of a mix of herbs including chamomile flower, peppermint leaves, licorice root, angelica root and milk thistle fruit.

Bottom line: While there’s no cure for IBS, these lifestyle changes may make a difference for some sufferers. Patients should, of course, always talk to their doctor first.