You have been to the doctor, had tests, and exams done and you FINALLY received a diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome, IBS. But you may still feel uncertain what that means, or even what to do to start feeling better?
Whether you have been battling digestive issues for years, or if your issues seemed to have come on overnight. There is no better time than the present to start taking strides to managing your IBS! By starting with small changes today, you can start to understand and trust your body again. You can implement these home remedies listed below to begin to see improvements of your symptoms:
Find the Best Fiber for You
Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that can not be fully digested in our GI tract, and helps to bulk stools. But not all fibers are the same, especially when it comes to IBS. There are two different types of fiber:
In-Soluble fiber does not gel or dissolve in water, and can be poorly fermented. Therefore, it can cause more gas and bloating that is equated with IBS symptoms. For people without IBS it helps to bulk our stools. But people with gut hypersensitivity or motility issues may not tolerate high insoluble foods such as: wheat, bran, beans/legumes.
Soluble fiber is dispersible in water. Soluble fiber also helps to bulk stools, along with increasing the water holding capacity to make stools softer and easier to pass. This is often better tolerated for people with IBS. Some of these foods include: quinoa, brown rice, chia seeds, blueberries or raspberries. People with IBS may realize they need to supplement with fiber and often times psyllium or guar gum based fibers can prevent further bloating or gas.
Gradually increase your fiber rich foods to prevent development of more gas and bloating. It is recommended that most adults aim for 25-35 grams of fiber per day.
Low FODMAP Diet
FODMAPS are a group of sugars that do not fully digest or absorb in our small intestines, and will pass through to our large intestines where the sugars will ferment causing a gas build up, as well as often pulling more water into our large intestines. This extra gas and water build up can cause the discomfort associated with IBS.
The FODMAP diet serves as a screening tool that is used to identify foods that trigger IBS symptoms such as: bloating, gas, abdominal pain, constipation and/or diarrhea.
The Low FODMAP Diet is not a long term solution, but is intended to help you identify your trigger foods. In order to do so, work with a Registered Dietitian who is trained in this dietary approach to ensure all your nutrient needs are still met, and they can help you decode your symptoms.
The FODMAP Diet is a 3 Step approach to fully understand your dietary triggers:
PHASE 1: Elimination Phase: During this phase you will eliminate high FODMAP foods for 2-6 weeks until symptoms improve.
PHASE 2: Challenge Phase (Reintroduction Phase): 8-10 weeks where you challenge each FODMAP group to test your tolerance level.
PHASE 3: Personalization: In the final phase, foods that were tolerated in the challenge phase will be brought back into the diet in a methodical way that is personalized to each individual.
There is a link between the gut and the brain, referred to as the gut-brain axis. The gut-brain axis consists of a bidirectional communication between the central and the enteric nervous system, linking our emotions and intestinal functions. Studies have shown that stress makes an impact on our gut motility, sensitivity, and gastrointestinal microbiome.
Along with modifying your diet to control your IBS, you should also focus attention on a stress management plan, such as:
Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT): CBT is done with a licensed counselor who helps to reshape negative or inaccurate thoughts, and provides tools to help manage stress or fears. Talk with your doctor for a referral or check out resources such as TalkSpace or BetterHelp.
Gut Directed Hypnotherapy: Nerva is an online self guided gut-directed hypnotherapy. This hypnotherapy approach helps to train your mind on how it perceives pain and interprets stress signals, therefore helps to retrain your gut-brain connection.
Exercise: Moving your body whether through gentle exercise such as yoga or walking, or if you enjoy higher intensity exercises can all help to alter your mental state and likely improve your gut microbiome. Try to get in a habit of frequent exercise whether its taking your dog for a walk or joining a gym.
People who are in chronic pain or even stress complain of a lack of sleep. This lack of sleep can also contribute to IBS discomfort, low energy, and daytime fatigue.
Practicing good sleep hygiene patterns can help you improve the management of your IBS symptoms.
Some tips to achieve good sleep hygiene:
Have a set bedtime with wind down time to mentally and physically prepare yourself for sleep. You can even set a bedtime alarm on your phone as a reminder.
Turn off your screens at a set time because some studies have shown that screen time can disrupt the melatonin surge you need to fall asleep.
No matter what time you fell asleep, keep the same wake up time to get your body into a routine.
Avoid caffeine in the afternoons, and replace it with exercise instead!
For more information and tips on how to manage your IBS, download the free guide: