IBS symptoms can be annoying and persistent. But it does not have to be expensive or difficult to find relief. In fact, some of the best and most effective suggestions are free or inexpensive.
This post is not meant to be a complete strategy, only suggestions that has worked well for many IBS sufferers.
How to alleviate IBS symptoms
Irritable bowel syndrome involves gut pain, constipation, fatigue, poor bowel movement, poor digestion, and many more. It’s not entirely clear what causes IBS and triggers can be different for each individual. Common triggers include stress, poor sleep, a poor diet.The global prevalence of IBS remains elusive: PubMed (nih.gov)Stress and sleep quality associated with gastrointestinal disorders – PubMed (nih.gov)Stress and visceral pain: IBS – PubMed (nih.gov)Symptoms & Causes of IBS | NIDDK (nih.gov)IBS and diarrhea – PubMed (nih.gov)Fatigue in Irritable Bowel Syndrome: PubMed (nih.gov)
Here are five practical tips that might be enough to resolve a number of digestive problems. The most important ones are entirely for free.
IBS symptoms include inflammation, bloating, constipation and pain. IBS is often connected to bacterial imbalances in the gut, therefore consuming probiotics can work well. Studies show that probiotics help balance the digestive tract and help calm an upset stomach.IBS: Overview – InformedHealth.org – NCBI Bookshelf (nih.gov)
Fermented foods and probiotic supplements are well tolerated by most people. Specialists recommend taking a probiotic supplement containing a wide range of bacteria as the gut and body loves diversity.
In addition, fermented vegetables, kefir, natto, and homemade yogurt can be very beneficial. Experience show that a few weeks on a probiotic supplement is needed before reaching maximum effect. A probiotic supplement should be taken 15-30 minutes or so before meals when the gut’s acidity level is low as this increases the bacteria survival rate.
Summary: Make it a habit to consume fermented food daily, especially during main meals. Adding probiotic bacteria help stabilize the gut.
2. Stress management
Stress and anxiety can activate a strong response from the body, including an increased production of stress hormones. When stressed, breathing tends to become shallow and the air is forced higher up in the chest instead of the lower part of the lungs. All of this has a poor effect on the gut and can trigger IBS symptoms.Impact of psychological stress on IBS (nih.gov)Psychiatric, Somatic and Other Disorders and IBS (nih.gov)
Practicing slow, deep breathing helps to relax the body. This can quickly decrease the production of stress hormones and calm the gut. In addition, regular walks in nature, calming music, and EFT tapping are all free but used by many as effective stress relief strategies.Stress management Stress relief – Mayo ClinicHealth Psychology Breathlessness and Anxiety (dchs.nhs.uk)Relaxation techniques: Breath control helps quell errant stress response – Harvard Health
Probiotic bacteria seem to play an important role in reducing stress. Lactobacillus plantarum Reduces Cortisol Levels during Stress: (nih.gov)The ties between IBS and intestinal microbiota (nih.gov)
Stress makes people eat faster and chewing less and this can cause many digestive problems including IBS. Learn to eat slowly! Chew slowly and thoroughly, enjoy every bite, be present during the meal. This means not using electronic devices during meals.
Summary: Focus on being relaxed during and after meals. Allow the digestive machinery to undisturbed break down food. This one strategy can alleviate many digestive issues.
3. Problematic carbs
For some people, certain sugars (carbs) and fiber can cause IBS problems or SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth). However, it can be hard to identify the precise foods that trigger symptoms. There are also great individual differences.
In a healthy gut, these foods don’t cause problems. However, some individuals cannot break them down causing them to ferment in the gut. This triggers bloating, gas, a swollen stomach, and other symptoms. When the fermented carbs reach the colon they can cause diarrhea or constipation. What can you do?
The solution includes excluding foods causing problems. Common culprits include onions, garlic, beans, lentils, lactose (milk sugar), fructose, and oligosaccharides found in bread and other grain products.
The low FODMAP diet has helped many to resolve IBS symptoms. Briefly, it works like this:Treatment of IBS – PubMed (nih.gov)Dietary triggers in IBS – PubMed (nih.gov)Is there any food I can eat? PubMed (nih.gov)
- Stop eating known triggers (high FODMAP foods).
- Keep a food log. Symptom journals for IBS – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Slowly reintroduce one food at the time to determine which ones are problematic.
- Now you can list foods in two categories: 1. what to avoid completely or limit; 2. Foods that can be fully enjoyed (usually meat, eggs, butter, almond milk, rice, oats, and other).
- You might also
Summary: Keep a food log to determine which foods cause problems. You will end up with a list of foods to avoid completely, others you need to limit, those you can fully enjoy, and those that are undetermined.
4. Too little stomach acid
Low levels of stomach acid (hypochlorhydria) is a common problem and more so the older you get. Stomach acid is essential for proper digestion and assimilation of nutrients. Stomach acid also controls harmful microorganisms that enter the gut with food. The body’s ability to produce stomach acid decreases with age and this can cause IBS symptoms.Heartburn Not Always Caused by Excess Acid | Nutrition Review
Paradoxically, a lack of stomach acid is a major reason for acid reflux. A burning sensation in the stomach may appears to be because of too much stomach acid. However, in most cases it’s quite the contrary. Too little stomach acid causes undigested food to remain too long in the stomach causing irritation and a burning sensation. The solution?
Learn to eat slowly! Chewing food well and enjoy the meal will give the body enough time to produce stomach acid and enzymes which are essential for good digestion.The Role of HCL In Gastric Function And Health | Clinical Education
Betaine has been used for over 100 years to restore normal stomach acidity. Some people report that adding a HCL supplement greatly improves digestion and and prevent acid reflux, at least short-term. However, those with ulcers should be careful with betaine HCL.
Summary: Learn to eat slowly and chew the food thoroughly. This allows the body to produce stomach acid and enzymes needed for a complete digestion.
5. Digestive enzymes
Enzymes are essential for proper digestion. While chewing, digestive enzymes are released in the mouth and gut. However, fast eaters make it hard for the body as it takes time to get the digestive machinery up to speed. Enzymes are abundant in fresh vegetables, fruit, and nuts. Try including such foods daily.What You Need to Know About Pancreatic Enzymes | Columbia University (columbiasurgery.org)Digestive enzymes in GI symptoms of patients with IBS (europeanreview.org)Digestive Enzyme Supplementation in Gastrointestinal Diseases | (eurekaselect.com)
Stress can severely disturb the body’s production of enzymes. Learn to control stress.
Summary: Full-spectrum digestive enzymes work well for many digestive issues. However, this is true only of good-quality supplements with sufficient levels of enzymes.
Raw and fermented food. Fruits like mango, papaya, avocado, lemon, and pineapples. Raw or slightly steamed vegetables, sprouts, ginger. Fresh vegetable juice is packed with enzymes. Fermented food as sauerkraut, kefir, kimchi, garlic, natto. Apple cider vinegar, spirulina, chlorella. Most enzymes are destroyed in heavily cooked and processed food. Enzymes in Food Processing
More than you might imagine. Being relaxed during meals promotes the body’s production of saliva, stomach acid, and enzymes. It makes you chew food properly, which should be on average 20-30 times. Eating slowly helps avoid overeating and weight gain.Eating and Swallowing GuidelinesChewing and food intake over the course of a meal – ScienceDirectProlonged chewing decreases later snack intake – ScienceDirect
That depends. Eating sugary foods or fruit right after main meals may not be the best for those with IBS issues as it can cause more bloating and gas. It’s better to wait for at least 30 min after a large meal before enjoying sugary deserts.
Avoiding drinking too much is good for digestion. Especially problematic are carbonated drinks like bear and soda water. Drinking coffee right after a large meal can also disturb digestion. However, a glass of kefir, wine, or a little lemon water during meal is usually fine.
To take a slow walk has proven very beneficial as this lowers stress and makes food move faster through the gut which aids digestion.
People tend to eat faster and more when watching TV or playing with their mobile devices. Eating too fast makes it easy to overeat which lead to weight gain. Fast eaters often have acid reflux, gut pain, bloating, constipation, inflammation, burping a lot, or just feeling uncomfortably full.