As mentioned in Part 1 of this blog series, the cause of IBS is not fully understood. Additionally, symptoms often vary from person to person. Therefore, managing IBS symptoms is often a challenge for both the individual and the physician treating them. Thankfully, there is evidence to support the use of diet and lifestyle changes to help reduce GI distress and symptoms. Read below for an overview of the top 5 ways to manage IBS through diet & lifestyle.

Top 5 ways to manage IBS with diet & lifestyle modifications:

  1. Consider *WHAT* you’re eating and how this may be impacting or triggering symptoms. Certain foods our drinks may make symptoms work. Some common triggers include:
    • FODMAPs – this is an acronym for a group of rapidly fermentable and osmotically active short-chain carbohydrates. Based of these foods there has been a dietary approach developed by the Australian researchers at Monash University, which has been found to help improve IBS symptoms in 75% of people that suffer from this condition. Part 3 of this blog series will cover this in more detail.
    • Caffeine
    • Foods high in fat
    • Alcohol
    • Consider adding fermented foods to your diet which are high in probiotics (such as kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir and yogurt)
  2. Consider *HOW* you’re eating – often overlooked, but this is just as important as what you’re eating! Things to consider…
    1. Do you eat large meals? Large portions and meals can cause cramping and diarrhea, whereas small and more frequent meals are generally more easily tolerated.
    2. Do you eat quickly? Practice SLOWING down and chewing your food. It sounds simple, but so many of us don’t do this since we rush through meals! Remember that digestion starts in our mouth. If we eat to quickly and don’t chew our food thoroughly enough this can lead to issues later on in the digestive process.
  3. Stress reduction
    • Sleep – Lack of sleep doesn’t only lead to fatigue and irritability, but it can also lead to decreased stress-intolerance. Having a reduced capability to tolerate stress can cause a disruption to digestion and may accelerate GI transit time, which can exacerbate IBS symptoms. Aim for 7-8 hours at least per night.
    • Exercise – We’ve all heard of endorphins before. Well – they are real! When we exercise,  our bodies release this chemical which interacts with the receptors in our brain which can reduce how we sense pain and perceive stress.
      • For those with IBS-C increasing daily movement can be extremely beneficial when it comes to increasing GI motility.
      • For both those with IBS-C and IBS-D there is some early stage research to support that yoga can help decrease bowel symptoms, IBS severity and anxiety.
      • Intense exercise may increase stress in the body…for example running may cause runner’s diarrhea in some which is the result of an increase in GI motility and can lead to possible gut permeability and damage.
  4. Psychological and behavioral therapy
    • Although psychological issues are not necessarily the cause of IBS they can exacerbate symptoms. Additionally, many people that suffer from IBS also report anxiety and depression. Therefore, the use of hypnotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and stress management techniques such as practicing meditation and mindfulness can be helpful in decreasing psychological issues that contribute to physical symptoms.
  5. Medications:
    • Physicians may prescribe different medications depending on whether IBS-C or IBS-D is present.
    • Medications specifically designed to help with IBS-C include Linzess or Amitza. Whereas, anti-diarrheal such as loperamide could help manage IBS-D.
    • Rifaximin, a non-absorbable antibiotic, has also been approved by the FDA to help reduce symptoms of bloating and diarrhea in those with IBS-D.
    • Additionally, antidepressants (such as tricyclic antidepressants or SSRIs) have been found to have a central effect on pain management and impact local gut action that minimizes visceral sensitivity and/or motor activity.

Do you suffer from IBS? If so, my 1:1 nutrition coaching services can help! Sign up for your free 15-minute phone consultation here!

*Disclaimer: Always seek the advice of your own Medical Provider and/or Mental Health Provider regarding any questions or concerns you have about your specific health or any medications, herbs or supplements you are currently taking and before implementing any recommendations or suggestions from this Website. Please consult your nutritionist or physician before making any drastic changes to your diet.