What is IBS?
- IBS is a common, long-term condition of the digestive system. It can cause bouts of stomach cramps, bloating, not being able to go to the toilet, or needing to go to the toilet too often.
- The symptoms vary between individuals and affect some people more severely than others.
- Symptoms tend to come and go in periods lasting a few days to a few months at a time.
- IBS symptoms can be triggered by certain foods (e.g. fatty and processed foods) and drinks (e.g. alcohol, caffeine and fizzy drinks) as well as stress and anxiety.
- The symptoms of IBS can also have a significant impact on a person’s day-to-day life and can have a deep psychological impact. As a result, many people with the condition have feelings of depression and anxiety.
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) can affect up to one in five Brits at some stage of their life and twice as many women as men.
- It’s not always easy to diagnose and it can be difficult to pinpoint the triggers.
‘Gutfulness’ tips from meditation and mindfulness expert Emma Mills
- Create a mindfulness toolkit: Have items with you that you know will help you feel good and relaxed while on-the-go, such as a favourite book, essential oils or herbal teas.
- Belly Breathing: When daily pressures begin to pile up, take five minutes to focus on your breathing. Lying down, place both hands on your tummy, covering your belly button. When you breathe in, imagine there is a little balloon inside your tummy. As it expands, lift your hands as you breathe in, lower as you breathe out.
- Visualisation: Picture your digestive tract as a long, calm river that flows gently, passing through the throat and into the tummy. Feel the ‘river’ gently cooling the soft walls of your tummy and system, cleansing, healing and helping your body to feel full of energy and life.
- Humming: Sit comfortably and on your next out breath, close your mouth and make a little humming sound. This can be very relaxing on the digestive system and restore a sense of harmony. Don’t over breathe, as the aim is nice, gentle easy relaxation.
- Focus in: Take three minutes to focus on a flower. Put all your attention on this; its petals, fragrance, shape etc. Notice how it feels to be engaged and ask yourself what starts to feel different.
- Tapping: Gently tap using your knuckles around the rib cage, across the back of the ribs and around the hips, use 20 percent of your effort while you say, ‘I can trust my body, I can feel relaxed’.
- Sound the AUM (om): First breathe in gently and on your next out breath, let out a little AUM sound. Do this three to four times a day.
- Play with opposites in self talk: In your mind play with the opposites to reduce negative thoughts which can have an impact on your stress levels and could trigger your IBS. For example: ‘I feel anxious vs. what if I don’t have to feel anxious’, ‘I’m stressed vs. I’m at peace’, ‘I’m all uptight vs. but I can be relaxed’.
You can also see these tips as part of a video here.
Fiona Hunter’s Top Nutrition ‘Gutfulness’ Tips…
Fiona Hunter says: “In my years as a nutritionist, I’ve met a lot of people struggling to control their IBS. Making a few simple changes to your diet and lifestyle can make a big difference to gas-related symptoms like bloating, cramps and discomfort that affect over 90 percent of IBS sufferers. Finding the right foods, drink and supplements can help those experiencing these symptoms.”
- Beat the bloat – A common symptom of IBS can be wind and bloating. Tackle this by avoiding gassy foods like onions, cauliflower and lentils. They contain a type of carbohydrate called fructans which some people with IBS find hard to digest. As a result, they pass undigested into the large bowel, producing gas and causing bloating. If you find fruits like plums and apples are causing cramping, removing the peel can make them easier to digest.
- Boost your good bacteria – Naturally increase your levels of tummy friendly bacteria by eating veggies high in prebiotic fibres like bananas, leeks and asparagus. They work to selectively encourage the growth of the ‘good’ probiotic bacteria.
- Avoid fatty food – There’s no one size fits all diet for those with IBS, and keeping a food diary will help you identify trigger food. Some people find that high fat meals, even good fats like those in avocados and salmon, can aggravate symptoms such as abdominal pain and bloating.
- Cut the caffeine – Give it a try for a few weeks: there’s no conclusive evidence that links caffeine with IBS, but eliminating it has been found to help alleviate symptoms for some people.
- Go easy on the booze – Up to one-third of people with IBS say that alcohol worsens their symptoms.
There are also plenty of myths that surround IBS, so Fiona Hunter was keen to tackle them:
- Sugar free is best – Some sugar-free mints and gum contain sugar substitutes which can cause bloating and diarrhoea. Avoid products containing sorbitol, mannitol and xylitol.
- IBS is caused by a food allergy – Only one to three percent of adults with IBS are diagnosed with a food allergy. For some people the condition is actually linked with a food intolerance (which is different to allergy) such as wheat or fruit.
- Cutting out milk and dairy will help prevent IBS – While some people find cutting out dairy and or gluten helps with their symptoms, this isn’t the case for everyone. If you find cutting out dairy helps, it’s important to include other sources of calcium in your diet including canned fish and soybeans.
- Raw food diets are easier on the tummy – For foods like fruit and vegetables, cooking them helps to break down some of the tough cell walls. This can make them easier to digest, making it easier on the tummy.
- IBS is the same as Coeliac disease – Although some people with IBS find that gluten found in foods like bread and pasta can trigger symptoms, most IBS sufferers can eat these without any problems.
Other ways to deal with IBS
I’ve found some other great ways to improve the symptoms of IBS that I also wanted to share with you:
- Drink plenty of water. We are encouraged to do this anyway, but it’s even more important to do if suffering with IBS. There are also plenty of things that you can add to your water to help further, such as lemon and lime, apple cider vinegar and ginger root. They all have amazing qualities.
- Really think about what you put inside your body. A Balanced Belly offers some anti-inflamatory gut health drinks and 8 natural ways to detox your gut.
- Think about how you cook food. Mila’s Little Things offers some great IBS recipes.
- When eating, make sure you chew your food and take your time! You’ve got to do as much as you can to aid your digestion when you suffer from IBS.
- Lack of sleep can make symptoms worse, so make sure you get a good nights sleep.
- Try to avoid stressors and stressful situations where possible, keeping calm and under control. Similarly, try to do activities and hobbies that you enjoy and allow you to keep calm. This may involve spending time with other people, or simply completing an adult colouring book.
- Certain yoga poses are said to help with symptoms, so it is worth giving these a go. Stylecraze has shared some over on her blog.
- It is important to exercise when possible, to make you feel better as a whole as well as keeping you fit and healthy. Exercise will also help you to have a better nights sleep.
- Visit a doctor if you feel you need further help or support in managing your symptoms.
- Try a food intollerance test. Certain companies offer this and it may help you to know which foods to avoid if you’re not sure.
- Try over the counter products such as Senocalm to ease your symptoms and as a source of prevention.