Does this sound familiar? You’re constipated and bloated for a few days, your tummy’s gurgling. Don’t even mention the abdominal pain and flatulence. Then all of a sudden? You need to go—and you need to go NOW.
You’re not alone. This is what commonly happens in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a common condition affecting 10 to 20 percent of people. Women are more commonly affected, however, these figures may be skewed because men may not openly talk about their bowel habits or seek medical advice.
The exact causes for IBS are unknown and there may be many and varied triggers. As each person is different, so can be the reasons for experiencing this digestive distress.
Triggers can include food sensitivities such as caffeine, dairy products, alcohol, high fat and high sugar. Emotional factors, from stress, medications and hormonal changes, can also contribute. For an offical IBS diagnosis, however, bowel conditions need to be ruled out first.
Managing your IBS symptoms
Keep a food diary and a record of your symptoms – this will help you identify what may be a trigger within your diet.
Add beneficial supplements to your daily diet such as:
- Peppermint: Peppermint is a carminative for the digestive system. It helps to calm bloating and cramps. Lookout for enteric coated products with peppermint, which means that the peppermint will make it through the stomach and get to the bowel, where it is needed.
- Aloe: This helps to soothe and heal the entire digestive tract and promote regularity.
- Fibre: Psyllium and slippery elm. The number one cause of constipation is lack of fibre followed by low water intake.
- Probiotics: These help boost beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract, which helps with digestion.
- Prebiotics: Prebiotics, such as inulin, help feed and maintain beneficial bacteria.
- Digestive Enzymes: These will help break down food more efficiently; prevent food from over fermenting which is a cause of excess bloating and wind.
Stress Management – make calming activities part of your every day. Walk, take a candlelit bath or simply take time out to do nothing and just breathe. Sit on the grass, read or keep a journal to get those stressed thoughts out of your head and onto paper.
Get moving – whether its walking, running, yoga, going to the gym or just taking the dog for a stroll, these may help ease abdominal discomfort. Is has been shown physical exercise can positively affect IBS sufferers. It’s also a cost-free way to manage stress levels.
Even though there is no scientifically documented cure for IBS, there are many ways to manage your symptoms and maintain your digestive health.