Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) not only causes severe discomfort and pain, but it also affects your quality of life drastically. Here’s the good news: you don’t have to resort to extreme measures in order to manage your IBS successfully.
Here are several ways to help control your IBS symptoms naturally. Try incorporating these preventive tips and natural remedies into your daily lifestyle and see the difference they make:
- Practise good nutrition. The Greek physician Hippocrates said, “Let food be thy medicine and let medicine be thy food.” This is certainly true for foods which help control your IBS. These include lean meats, fatty fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, low-FODMAP fruits and vegetables, fermented foods, and bone broth. Try making these foods staples of your diet so you can prevent an IBS flare-up.
- Consume fibre. In line with the previous point, eating a fibre-rich diet—particularly psyllium, calcium polycarbophil, and wheat bran—can help you control your IBS. However, this tip works best for those who have constipation-predominant IBS (IBS-C). Eating lots of fibre if you have diarrhoea-predominant IBS (IBS-D) can potentially worsen your symptoms.
Excellent sources of dietary fibre include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans. If you aren’t getting sufficient amounts of fibre from solid foods, consider taking fibre supplements.
- Take probiotics. Probiotics are live microorganisms or friendly bacteria that boost the health of your digestive system. These good bacteria found in fermented foods like kefir or yoghurt help alleviate abdominal pain and other IBS symptoms.
Do practise due diligence in choosing your probiotics, as some can alter the amount of your natural gut bacteria and produce detrimental effects.
- Try prebiotics. Prebiotics are plant fibres which promote the growth of healthy gut bacteria. Fresh produce such as raw asparagus, bananas, onions, and garlic are good sources of prebiotics.
In terms of IBS management, probiotics have a better reputation than prebiotics because more clinical trials back up the former. Nonetheless, prebiotics are still worth a try because they are very helpful in promoting the growth of probiotics.
- Drink peppermint oil. Peppermint helps relieve gastrointestinal issues by impeding the flow of calcium into the intestines. This, in turn, helps decrease muscular contractions. Adding a drop of peppermint oil in warm water or tea should help relieve your IBS-induced abdominal pain.
- Consume herbs. Peppermint isn’t the only effective herbal remedy against IBS. Here are several other herbs that help you control your IBS naturally:
- Fennel: This is a flowering plant from the carrot family and a common ingredient in Mediterranean dishes. It prevents the accumulation and expulsion of gas in your GI tract. It also helps produce gastric juices. If you have IBS, drinking fennel tea should help keep bloating and gas at bay.
- Ginger: This yellowish-green flowering plant has excellent anti-inflammatory properties. It also provides pain and bloating relief and improves intestinal muscle tone. You can brew fresh or dried ginger root into your tea. Alternatively, you can make ginger a staple ingredient of your cooking.
- Chamomile: It turns out this plant isn’t merely an effective sedative. Chamomile also has anti-inflammatory properties that works in preventing muscle spasms and gas. Drinking chamomile tea an hour or so before bedtime can help you relax and relieve IBS symptoms.
- Caraway: This plant, which comes from the parsley family, has seeds which produce carvol and carvene—two chemicals which help expel gas and give you relief from IBS. You can purchase caraway as a whole seed—which you can chew—or tea at the supermarket.
- Anise: This ancient Mediterranean spice has seeds which have a sweet and licorice-like taste. Anise helps relieve symptoms of constipation and diarrhoea, as well as bloating. Just like caraway, whole anise seeds are chewable. Try crushing the seeds lightly before brewing them into tea to increase their potency.
- Turmeric: This flowering plant also has powerful anti-inflammatory properties. According to a study conducted in 2004, IBS patients who took turmeric for eight weeks had improved bowel movement patterns and significantly less abdominal pain. You can consume turmeric as a spice for your foods or in tea form.
- Supplement with l-glutamine. This is a non-essential amino acid which your body produces. Tissues in your large intestine rely on l-glutamine as a fuel source. This amino acid also helps maintain proper barriers within your colon.
An eight-week study involving 106 adult subjects published in August 2018 revealed l-glutamine minimised all major IBS symptoms.
You can consume l-glutamine in powder or supplement form. Alternatively, natural food sources of l-glutamine include chicken, beans, fish, lentils, dairy products, peas, tofu, beets, cabbage, and spinach.
- Manage stress. Stress—particularly those experienced before 18 years of age—is one of the possible causes of IBS. Not only that, but high stress levels also worsen your IBS symptoms. In fact, stress increases colon motility and sensation in IBS patients.
One of the simplest ways of managing stress is deep breathing, a technique which calms down misfiring gut nerves.
Yoga is another effective stress-buster. Another study featured 19 IBS patients who enrolled in a relaxation-response-based program which included yoga. At the end of the nine-week study, the subjects reported IBS symptom relief.
- Try acupuncture. This ancient Chinese medical technique involves the insertion of needles into various points of the body to restore optimum energy balance. A form of acupuncture known as electro acupuncture uses pulsating currents to achieve this goal.
It turns out experts consider electro acupuncture as a form of loperamide—an ingredient which relieves diarrhoea. This bodes well for you if your IBS type is diarrhoea-predominant.
- Do heat therapy. Intense direct heat helps relax the muscles of your GI tract. This heat calms your colon so you feel immediate relief.
Heat therapy also helps you relax and lower your stress levels to help you prevent stress-related IBS attacks.
Good heat therapy options include an electric blanket, hot water bottle, sauna, steam bath, hot tub, or hot oil massage. Disposable hot packs, which you can wear under your clothing, are a great option for office workers and busy individuals. They stay hot for up to eight hours so you can keep your IBS symptoms at bay while you’re at work.
Need Our Help?
If you need professional advice to help you manage your IBS or other gut health conditions, simply give us a call at (07) 3071-7405 between 8am and 6pm from Mondays to Fridays so you can book an appointment with one of our qualified dietitians or nutritionists.
We can help you formulate a personalised nutrition plan that will complement your doctor’s prescribed course of action for your IBS. Alternatively, you can send us an enquiry and we will get back to you as soon as we can.