Natural ways to prevent and avoid IBS

Irritable bowel syndrome, commonly known as IBS, affects millions of people around the world. This condition, which often manifests itself as abdominal pain, bloating, gas, constipation, and diarrhea, is becoming increasingly common due to the prevalence of unhealthy diet choices. Fortunately, most cases of IBS don’t require medical intervention and can be easily remedied through changes in lifestyle.

According to the International Foundation of Gastrointestinal Disorders, the annual cost of IBS to society is approximately $21 billion. This value accounts for medical expenses as well as indirect costs due to loss of productivity and absenteeism. Natural remedies for IBS can significantly reduce the cost from both aspects. If you want to give them a try, here are some tips on how you can reduce IBS naturally:

  • Drink plenty of fluids — For those who are suffering from diarrhea due to IBS, they need to increase their fluid intake to prevent dehydration. Aside from water, you can also choose to drink electrolyte drinks, which you can easily make at home by combining cold water, maple syrup, sea salt, lemon juice, and lime juice. Even people who are experiencing IBS-induced constipation can benefit from drinking a little more water since this would promote the movement of stool through the intestines.
  • Avoid problem foods — There are many foods that can trigger and worsen IBS symptoms. These include alcohol, dairy products, caffeine, and sugar-free sweeteners. If you are specifically suffering from flatulence, then you must also avoid cabbage, beans, cauliflower, and even gum since this will cause you to swallow more air and therefore produce more gas.
  • Eat probiotic foods — One of the major contributors to IBS is an abundance of harmful bacteria in the gut. This causes inflammation, reduced immune function, and digestion problems. By eating probiotic foods, which contain beneficial bacteria, you can effectively prevent the aforementioned conditions. Fermented foods like kimchi, kefir, kombucha, and yogurt are rich in probiotics but if you don’t like any of these, you can also go for probiotic supplements just make sure that they don’t contain ingredients like oats and fructose, which can worsen IBS. (Related: Probiotics are the latest health food trend; eating ‘good’ bacteria leads to better digestive health, say experts.)
  • Follow a fiber-rich diet — Fibers are great for people with IBS since they don’t just promote the passage of stool through the intestines, they also support the growth of beneficial bacteria. Increase your intake of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains for your fiber needs but make sure that the amount you’re getting is suitable for your condition since too much can cause IBS to worsen.
  • Exercise — Exercise should be a part of everyone’s routine because of its many benefits, especially if you are suffering from IBS. When your body is moving, your digestive system will follow suit causing significant improvements in bowel movement and effectively preventing constipation. Moreover, physical activity promotes a sense of well-being, which reduces the incidence of stress-induced abdominal pain in IBS patients.
  • Don’t skip meals — If you’re suffering from IBS, following an eating schedule would be beneficial in regulating bowel movement. Additionally, dieticians suggest eating small frequent meals compared to big ones since the latter exerts more pressure on the digestive system to get the food moving, which can lead to discomfort and pain if you’re suffering from constipation.

What triggers IBS?

Most people are familiar with the role of diet in the manifestation of IBS but not as many people are familiar with the other known triggers of IBS, which include the following:

  • Hormones — Women have a higher risk of having IBS, especially during their menstrual periods, suggesting that hormones play a role in the onset of this disease. This was validated by a study published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology which found that estrogen influences the different functions of the digestive system. High levels of this hormone have been found to increase pain and constipation due to IBS while a drop in estrogen reduces overall IBS symptoms but increases the incidence of constipation.
  • Stress — A majority of people with IBS suffer from more severe symptoms when they are experiencing psychological stress. Moreover, mental illnesses like anxiety and depression also increase the risk of IBS. However, the connection between digestive functions and psychological factors is still not well understood.

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