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There are three types of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS): IBS-D is characterized by frequent bouts of diarrhea, IBS-C constipation, and IBS-M is an unpredictable mix of both ailments. Luckily, there are steps you can take in the comfort of your own home to keep the symptoms of IBS under control. Here are some simple lifestyle changes that can ease the discomfort of gas, bloating, and irregular bowel movements.
Some types of food, such as cauliflower, cabbage, and broccoli can contribute to the gastrointestinal pain of IBS and should be avoided. Beverages such as coffee, alcohol, and soda can also cause stomach issues. In addition, it is a good idea to keep away from spicy food and artificial sweeteners, as they can be difficult to digest.
On the other hand, some foods are good for gastrointestinal health. These generally include foods that contain probiotics and prebiotics, or good bacteria that aid digestion, such as fruit, vegetables, and healthy fats found in some types of nuts and seeds. If you are not sure what triggers your symptoms, try noting down what you eat for a few weeks and the times that you are experiencing stomach problems.
People with IBS should monitor their fiber consumption. Even though fiber is important to alleviate constipation, it can also increase gas and cramping. Ideally, start with soluble fiber and increase your intake of fiber gradually over a few weeks to see how your body handles it. Start with around eight grams of fiber per day and increase this amount by three or four grams each week until you reach 30 grams. Additionally, it can be helpful to start with lower fiber fruits and vegetables that have been frozen and cooked to work your way up to high-fiber foods like most beans.
Some people with IBS can benefit from taking fiber supplements. However, it is best to talk to your doctor before embarking on this form of treatment because it may help with symptoms but not healing the root cause in the gut.
Many people suffering from IBS are also lactose intolerant or have severe food sensitivities that can be triggered with trace amounts. Those who fall into this category don’t produce enough lactase – an enzyme in the small intestine – to break down lactose.
If you are one of them, you can try substituting certain dairy foods, such as eating soy, oat, or rice milk and nut yogurt instead. Speak with your doctor if you are concerned about not getting enough protein, vitamin B, and calcium from the rest of your diet.
While you can find plenty of food delivery and meal kit services, WeTheTrillions is one specifically geared toward delivering meals that will improve your allover health. With programs designed to tackle the root causes of IBS and because IBS is very unique, they pairs you with an assigned health specialist to make sure your goals are met, questions are answered, and 24/7 text advice when you need it.
The WeTheTrillions approach blends clinical evidence, patient customization and delicious meals and snacks to eliminate any second guessing when it comes to what foods will make your symptoms worse. We send everything you need - including prescription-grade, ready-to-eat meals and snacks—and take shopping and chopping off your to-do list. Think: exciting and interesting meals, customized to all of your health needs, all without ever having to leave your house.
Simply put, we provide the insight, food, and clinical support to help you reach your peak health.
Another dietary choice you want to consider is practicing consistency in your eating habits. If your body responds better to smaller meals throughout the day, do that. If your body prefers large meals, then consider eating at specific times each day. For specific symptoms like diarrhea, you may find that eating small, frequent meals makes you feel better. But if you're constipated, perhaps you’ll want to look for a food that moves through your intestines quickly.
Even though carbonated drinks, coffee, and alcohol can make diarrhea and gas worse, it is important that people with IBS drink plenty of fluids. The recommended fluid intake per day is at least six to eight glasses.
Alternatively, drink peppermint tea to relax your intestines and alleviate gas or ginger tea to ease digestive problems. It may also be a good idea to invest in peppermint capsules, as they are designed to break down in your intestines rather than your stomach.
Stress can be a trigger for the symptoms of IBS. When you are stressed, the contractions of the colon muscles that keep things moving can become irregular, resulting in abdominal pain and irregular bowel movements.
One study found that IBS patients who suffered from frequent constipation showed a marked improvement in their symptoms after exercising for 30 minutes five days a week. If you are not used to exercising, start slowly and gradually increase the frequency and length of your workout sessions. It is best to exercise at the same time each day, and at least an hour after eating.
Stress can also trigger IBS flare-ups. As such, it is important that IBS patients learn how to use various relaxation techniques. The gentle stretches and moves of yoga, Pilates, and tai chi are great for alleviating muscle tension and stress, as well as reducing blood pressure and cholesterol. You can easily do most of these exercises in the comfort of your own home with a book, an app, or a YouTube video. Meditation is also a time-tested way of keeping stress in check. Join meditation classes or try simple breathing exercises at home.
Many people with IBS suffer from sleep disturbances including trouble falling asleep and inability to sleep for long periods of time. According to studies, people with IBS are more likely to have bowel movements during the night, which can affect their quality of sleep. Insufficient sleep has been linked to worse morning IBS symptoms.
Lack of sleep can also increase your stress levels, leading to more IBS symptoms. Luckily, as mentioned above, regular exercise and taking up meditation can reduce your stress levels and improve the quality of your sleep. In addition, if you are traveling across different time zones, taking melatonin may help you regulate your body clock.
There are many drugs out there that can help you control the symptoms of IBS*. As no two people are alike, it is best to talk to your doctor about the type of medication that will work for your specific case. If you suffer from constipation, your doctor may prescribe lubiprostone (Amitiza) or linaclotide (Linzess), which help to ease content through the gastrointestinal tract.
If your IBS causes frequent bouts of diarrhea, your doctor may suggest loperamide (Imodium), or prescribe bile acid binders such as cholestyramine (Prevalite) or colestipol (Colestid). Other medications for those suffering from IBS-D include Eluxadoline (Viberzi), which alleviates secretions and muscle contractions in the intestine, and Rifaximin (Xifaxan), which is an antibiotic that reduces bacterial overgrowth that causes diarrhea.
*It’s important to note that the information and other content provided in this article are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment.
IBS can be uncomfortable and even embarrassing. Luckily, there are ways to alleviate the bloating, gas, and irregular bowel movements associated with the condition from the comforts of your home. From eating the right food to exercising more, the right lifestyle and dietary changes can make a world of difference when it comes to managing this debilitating condition.
We’re here at WeTheTrillions to help you discover what dietary and lifestyle changes can help you reach your optimum health. With the help of our clinicians, we make and deliver delicious customized meals you can build healthy habits around—including ways to ease the side effects of IBS.
Curious how WeTheTrillions can fit into your plan to tackle IBS? Check out our FAQs page to learn more.