A Guide to Managing Your IBS

IBS, or irritable bowel syndrome, is a condition which affects your bowels and stomach. It can cause diarrhea or constipation, bloating, and wind. If you think you have IBS, there are things that you can do yourself at home to manage your symptoms, or even improve them. Below is a guide to managing your IBS.

What is IBS?

Many people go to their doctor for a diagnosis of IBS, as this is important to rule out any other health conditions. IBS can be very different from one person to another, but generally it can cause symptoms such as:

  • Feeling bloated
  • Wind
  • Diarrhea, constipation, or in some cases, both
  • Feeling like you need to go to the toilet a lot
  • Feeling that you still need the toilet even though you have just been
  • Pain in your stomach
  • Nausea (feeling sick)
  • Tiredness
  • Loss of appetite

For IBS in women, you may also notice that your symptoms get worse when you are on your period. If you pass blood when you go to the toilet, this is not a sign of IBS, and you should speak to your doctor straight away. If you are not sure whether you have IBS or not, it is best to seek medical advice rather than self-diagnosing. 

IBS Causes

The cause of IBS is not known, and it may vary between each individual. Sometimes there is no real change in diet or lifestyle that causes IBS, and it can happen at any point in your life. Sometimes, IBS can be caused by a traumatic event that has caused stress, depression, or anxiety. Antibiotics can sometimes cause IBS, or you may get IBS symptoms after you have had a stomach illness. IBS is harmless and does not cause further disease, although it can cause uncomfortable symptoms.

Dietary and Lifestyle Changes

If you want to control your IBS, you may have to make changes to your diet and lifestyle. Below we look at some ways in which you can help manage your IBS.

  1. Try not to miss meals and leave a long time between eating, as this can cause constipation to worsen
  2. Eat regularly and chew your food properly, as this can help with digestion and bloating
  3. Drink plenty of water, as water is good for digestion and constipation
  4. Do not drink too much caffeine or avoid it if you can, as caffeine can stimulate your bowel and make you go more often
  5. Reduce the number of fizzy drinks and alcohol you consume, as this can worsen IBS
  6. Improve your diet by reducing fatty or rich foods, such as pizza, cheese, margarine, burgers, and sausages, as these can all cause bowel issues
  7. Exercise regularly, as this not only makes your body healthier, but your bowel too
  8. Find ways to relax, as stress can be linked to IBS
  9. Do not eat spicy foods, as this could make IBS worse and cause diarrhea, bloating, and stomach cramps

Changing your diet and lifestyle can help with IBS symptoms in more ways than you think. If you feel that you are stressed a lot, this can have an impact on your physical health. Stress also leads to the risk of eating more fatty foods as a way to cope. It can also have us reaching for a bottle of wine, which can also make IBS worse. Try relaxing and reducing your stress levels wherever possible, by doing yoga, getting a massage, meditating, or taking a vacation. 

Using Probiotics

Probiotics are live bacteria that can be found in yogurts, fermented drinks, and yogurt drinks. You can also take probiotics in capsule form if you do not like yogurt. The live bacteria and yeast that are contained within probiotics can help with your gut and can reduce the number of unhealthy bacteria living there. Your gut is full of bacteria but many of them are healthy and required for gut health. This is called “good bacteria”. 

Probiotics are a great way to manage your IBS, as they can promote these good bacteria in your gut. They can also help to control symptoms and reduce inflammation. For some, probiotics can even decrease the amount of diarrhea or constipation they get. There are different types of probiotics that contain different bacteria, so it may be that one works for you better than another. 

If you want to find the best probiotics for IBS, the Ruscio Institute for Functional Medicine may be able to help. They have a useful article that covers how probiotics can help you to manage your IBS symptoms, the benefits of using probiotics, and the best probiotics for IBS

Keep a Food Diary

Sometimes IBS can be caused by an intolerance to certain foods. An intolerance is different to an allergy and can cause symptoms that are uncomfortable, but not deadly. Keeping a food diary could help you find out what the cause of your IBS is, or what worsens your symptoms. Many people with IBS find that certain foods trigger their symptoms more and avoiding these can lead to less problems. Write down what you eat each day and what your symptoms were like during this time. If you notice any food makes your symptoms worse, try cutting that food from your diet and seeing if this helps. 

How to Ease Bloating

Bloating is a big concern for many people with IBS. As well as making you feel uncomfortable, it can make you self-conscious, especially before a big party or event. Luckily, there are things you can do at home to manage bloating symptoms and reduce bloating, such as:

  • Using peppermint oil, antacids, or other over-the-counter medications like Simethicone
  • Consuming more oats, such as porridge
  • Avoiding hard to digest foods, like beans, onions, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, and dried fruit
  • Using flax seeds every day
  • Avoiding sweeteners
  • Drinking more water and less fizzy drinks

How to Cope with IBS

IBS is more than just physical symptoms. It can cause you to feel anxious, worried, and stressed. It can be frustrating not feeling like you are in control of your own body. By trying to manage your own symptoms with the above guidance, this is the first step to coping better with your IBS. If it is affecting your mental health, talk to your doctor or a counselor. 

There are also forums online where people with IBS can talk about how they feel, what treatments have worked for them, and how to live life normally with IBS. If you are going on a vacation or traveling, plan in advance to ensure you have everything you need for a safe and comfortable trip. 

IBS is different for everyone, and you may find that you have to try a number of different methods to manage your IBS. It may take a few weeks to see any changes if you change your diet or lifestyle. Make sure to keep a food diary, as this can help you to spot triggers and also notice if the changes you are making do make a difference to your symptoms. If you are still struggling with your IBS, you can speak to a doctor, as they may be able to offer some medication to help with symptoms