Taking control of IBS

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Are you the 1 in 5 that suffers from IBS? If so, you are probably well aware of the symptoms it can cause including abdominal pain, boating and altered bowel habit (including diarrhoea and/or constipation). Some sufferers have occasional mild symptoms whereas others have more unpleasant longer-lasting symptoms. Most people fall somewhere in the middle, with relapsing and remitting symptoms. Nonetheless, there are many treatments available, some of which can be tried from the comfort of your own home.

What You'll Need

  • A diary

What You'll Do

  • Keep a symptom diary - I would advise trying this for at least 2-4 weeks. Make a note of anything you eat and drink, when you undertake any exercise or periods of stress. By keeping a diary, this should enable you to identify patterns and triggers such as alcohol, various foods or stress and may highlight relieving factors, like exercise.
  • Managing stress levels - It has been shown that periods of stress can induce or worsen symptoms of IBS. As such, reducing stress levels can be hugely beneficial. Find an interest or hobby that you enjoy to take your mind off things, or consider trying mindfulness or relaxation techniques – aim for 20 minutes each day. Why not go for a walk and consider taking someone you can talk to. This in turn may also enable you to get some sleep.
  • Exercise - Adults should aim to do 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity on at least 5 days of the week.
  • Diet - Aside from keeping a food diary as mentioned above, it is advised to eat regular, well-balanced meals. Avoid skipping meals. Caffeine should be limited, as well as carbonated drinks. Alcohol can also make symptoms worse and it may be worth reducing consumption or cutting out alcohol all together. Drink at least 8 cups of fluids per day, especially water or herbal teas. If your symptoms are predominantly diarrhoea and/or bloating, consider trying to reduce foods high in fibre, such as wholemeal breads, whole grains such as brown rice and cereals high in bran. You may also wish to consider reducing gas-producing foods and taking a look and trialing a low FODMAP diet (. If your symptoms are predominantly constipation, try to gradually increase your fibre intake. By doing this gradually, this avoids any sudden increase which may make your symptoms worse. Try foods high in soluble fibre for example oats or linseeds or consider taking soluble fibre supplements such as ispaghula.
  • Probiotics; you may wish to try probiotics. Take them daily for at least 4 weeks to see if they improve your symptoms. If they do not appear to help, then you could try an alternative brand.
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