Dealing with IBS is traumatic and stressful. Here are some coping strategies that should make life easier for you. With careful dietary and lifestyle changes, you may be able to unchain yourself from the toilet.
See your doctor! Do not just assume that you have IBS. Other, more serious conditions can cause similar symptoms. If necessary, get a second or third opinion.
Be aware of common dietary triggers. The following foods, beverages, and additives have been widely accepted as IBS triggers. Omit them from your diet completely or consume in limited quantities. You may be fine with some of these; everyone is different.
• Coffee, including decaffeinated coffee
• Carrageenan (which is even found in organic products)
• Sugars, honey, and maple syrup. Use pure stevia instead.
• Artificial sweeteners
• Fatty, deep fried, and skillet-fried foods
• Fat substitutes
• Raw fruits and vegetables, with the exception of bananas
• Red meat or dark poultry
• Skin on poultry
• Spicy foods
• Dairy products
• Milk chocolate
• Nuts and nut butters
• Oils, fats, margarine, shortening
• Carbonated beverages
• Fruit juices (even unsweetened varieties)
Avoid anything that causes you heartburn. If it irritates your upper gastrointestinal tract, imagine what it can do as it travels through your system.
Keep a food diary. Sometimes, tiny changes in diet can trigger attacks. Being able to look over the last few hours and days will help you to pinpoint your personal triggers. Be sure to note the time of day for everything you ingest, including the fiber content.
Peel, chop, blend, and cook. Skins on cherries, apples, carrots, and other foods may not digest properly. Do whatever you can to make everything easy to chew and digest.
Give your teeth a workout! Chew everything very well before you swallow. If it is the consistency of toothpaste before it enters your stomach, it will cause less strain on your digestive process.
Do not rush meals. Relax and take your time. If you are in a hurry, eat a small meal that you chew well rather than wolfing down something that will cause digestion problems.
Avoid ice-cold foods and beverages. Ingestion of something cold can cause contractions that lead to an IBS attack, especially on an empty stomach.
Consume soluble fiber at the beginning of every meal. Soluble fiber turns into a gel that soothes the digestive tract. Try to ensure that soluble fiber is the largest component of everything you consume.
Avoid scratchy insoluble fiber. Dry breakfast cereals made from brown rice, whole-grain breads with seeds, and other similar foods, can irritate the lining of your intestines.
Try herb teas. Ginger tea (or capsules) contain digestive enzymes. Ginger, a documented anti-spasmodic, can help to calm nausea, cramps, and inflammation. Chamomile tea can also calm intestinal spasms and inflammation.
If you are not sure about something, avoid it. Is that raw spinach salad or order of French fries worth the agony that you will feel in a few hours?
Do not go hungry. During the day, eat small amounts frequently. Loading something into an empty stomach may trigger an attack.
Keep hydrated. If you have diarrhea, you need to replace fluids; if you have constipation, ample fluid intake will help to keep stool soft and pliable. Pre-filter your water to remove the chlorine. Chlorine kills bacteria, including the useful bacteria that your gut needs to function correctly.
Avoid antibiotics. Only take antibiotics if prescribed and when absolutely necessary. They can irritate and/or damage the lining of your intestines.
Take probiotic supplements. Try to find the type that is encapsulated so that the probiotic is not released until it reaches the intestine. The useful bacteria will help to restore and maintain normal bowel function.
Try digestive enzymes. Digestive enzymes are available in capsule and powder forms. They may give your system the help it needs during IBS attacks.
Increase soluble fiber by using supplements. Products like Benefiber and Citrucel contain 100% soluble fiber. Introduce them slowly at first, so that they do not cause excessive gas.
Avoid stressful situations. They can cause contractions that lead to diarrhea.
Pay attention to the Bristol Stool Scale Chart. It will give you an idea of what healthy stool should look like. Aim for #3, #4, or #5 stools.
Use a hot water bottle or heating pad. Heat applied to the abdomen will feel good and help you to relax.
Consider hypnosis as an alternative therapy. Websites like RoseannaLeaton.com have hypnosis MP3s specifically created for IBS sufferers.
Practice meditation and relaxation techniques. Anything you can do to relax the rest of your body will help to calm your bowel. If you have a blood pressure cuff, take your blood pressure. Now, try a few slow, deep breaths (releasing every breath completely) and attempt to relax all your muscles. Check your blood pressure again to see how it affects you! Do this often enough, and you will be able to train yourself to know what true relaxation feels like.
Get enough sleep. IBS is stressful and you may need a little more sleep than usual in order to cope.
Get enough exercise. If you don’t feel up to doing anything energetic, try walking around the house in a figure-of-eight pattern for 20 minutes at a time.
The material provided in this article is for informational purposes only. It is not meant to replace proper medical diagnosis, treatment, or advice. Always consult your physician and other appropriate health-care providers before taking any medications, natural remedies, or supplements; or before changing your diet. Discuss all plans, symptoms, and medical conditions with your doctor.
Any use of the ideas contained herein is at your own discretion, risk, and responsibility. The author assumes no liability for any of the information presented. There are no representations or warranties, either express or implied.
You should not begin or discontinue medical treatment based on information contained in this, or any other, article.
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