2 Essential Ways to Natural IBS Relief
If you’ve been diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and are wondering how to relieve your symptoms, talk to your doctor in the first instance. She will be able to advise you and prescribe medication and in the longer term you will need to think about your diet and lifestyle so that you can stay pain and bloat-free.
This article looks at 2 things that may help – fiber (fibre) and pro-biotics.
Getting more fiber in your diet.
The bowel (and intestine) is a long muscular tube that moves food and the breakdown products of food along its length. The discomfort from IBS happens when the muscular tube doesn’t work in a smooth and coordinated way. Some parts are working faster than others and some have slowed right down.
Generally, diarrhoea is caused when the bowel is moving too fast and IBS with constipation happens when it is working too slowly. Both constipation and/or diarrhoea are common in IBS but doctors agree that IBS with constipation is more common in women.
Fiber can be useful to the IBS sufferer because it helps the bowel and intestine work properly. There are 2 types of fiber:
Soluble fiber helps both diarrhoea and constipation and is found in foods like apples, citrus fruits, beans and oats.
Insoluble fiber helps constipation by moving the gut contents along the intestine. It adds bulk to the contents and gives the muscular tube something to ‘push against’ to keep things moving. You’ll get insoluble fiber from wheat bran, wholegrain bread, many vegetables and healthy cereals.
High fiber foods will help treat constipation, haemorrhoids, diverticulitis and IBS as well as reduce your cholesterol and therefore reduce your heart disease risk.
It’s important to increase the fiber in your diet slowly as you can become bloated and feel gassy if you do it too quickly. Do this by eating a wide range of high fiber foods.
They also help your body absorb food nutrients and make you feel fuller for longer so that you eat less.
In addition follow these tips on reducing IBS pain and symptoms:
- Follow a healthy diet and avoid high-fat foods
- Drink plenty of water
- Eat small meals (try 6 smaller meals rather than 3 large ones)
- Deal effectively with your stress
- Use laxatives only when you really need to. They’re not good for the bowel in the long term and you may become dependent on them.
The amount of fiber you should eat each day depends on your age and sex. Generally men should aim for about 30-40 grams each day and women should be eating about 20-25 grams.
However, unless you weigh your food, it’s a bit difficult to know how much fiber you’re getting. So go for at least 2 or more cups of fruit and 2 or more cups of vegetables each day.
Foods with a high fiber content include:
Beans (kidney, pinto, black, lima, white, broad etc), lentils, artichokes, pears, apples, oranges, sweet potatoes, berries, prunes, figs, dates, apricots, spinach, corn and cabbage.
If you eat a lot of bread, replace white bread with wholegrain bread and have brown rice instead of white rice.
Eat more bran, oatmeal and whole grain cereals, and check the labels when you’re buying food. Bran (miller’s bran) can also be sprinkled into cereals and soups and added to meat loaf mix.
Using Probiotics for IBS relief.
Probiotics are live bacteria which are similar to the bacteria found in the healthy gut. You may hear them referred to as ‘good bacteria’ or ‘friendly bacteria’.
Probiotics aren’t a medication but are taken as a food supplement to help treat some illnesses and for those who want to support their general good health. They come in tablet form, powder, some yoghurts, miso, tempeh and soy-based products.
Doctors and scientists know that the evidence around probiotics is limited but more studies are being done, and there is some data to show that they can be useful in treating IBS and its symptoms.
However, because there are very few studies showing how effective they are, we don’t know how safe they are in more vulnerable groups such as young children, the elderly and people with a compromised immune system (people with HIV or undergoing cancer treatment).
Their side effects (if any) are usually mild and include bloating or gassiness. This would indicate that trying them to see if they help your IBS symptoms is low risk.
It may take some trial and error to find the probiotic that suits you as there are different combinations and formulations and every IBS sufferer’s experience is different.
For example, they commonly are found as either Lactobacillus or Bifidbacterium. Within each of these groups are different species and within each species there are different strains. So ask someone who knows about them to help you choose – a good health food store should have knowledgeable staff.
Prebiotics differ from probiotics in that they are non-digestible food ingredients that are designed to stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria and yeasts in the guts. Sometimes prebiotics and probiotics are mixed and these are called synbiotics.
Suggested reading for living with IBS.
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