3 Important Choices to make for IBS and Gut Health
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) affects the digestive / gut system and can cause stomach cramps, bloating, diarrhoea and constipation - all of which can have a big impact on everyday life.
No two guts are the same - and there are lots of studies to evidence that. And for many people an IBS diagnosis is a catch all for problematic digestive issues that don't match other conditions.
So it's a case of consistent choices to help manage symptoms. This IBS guide outlines thing to consider to help get back on track what you've had a flare up.
Three Simple Ways to Improve IBS symptoms you must do every day
Gut health is one of the most important facets of overall health and well-being, yet most people take our guts from granted.
Healing your gut after a flare up of IBS symptoms can take time but getting the basics right consistently is key to good gut health!
1. During and after an IBS flare up: Drink more water
Staying properly hydrated may be one of easiest things you can do for a healthy gut, but it’s also one of those things we tend to forget.
Are you consistently drinking 2L of water every day? In the UK we're lucky to have clean fresh water from the tap - and your gut will thank you for drinking plenty of it!
Water is essential for the gut - so give it the best chance to work at its best. Dehydration may cause the gut wall to become dry and irritated, making IBS symptoms worse.
Water helps flush toxins and waste products from your body, including the gut. It also helps to maintain fluid balance and prevents constipation. So make sure you drink plenty of water every day, especially if you’re experiencing stomach cramps or diarrhoea as a result of your IBS flare up.
Tips on how get more water in your diet:
- Add a lemon or lime wedge to your water for added flavour and Vitamin C
- Drink herbal teas such as peppermint, ginger or chamomile which are all great for gut health and digestion (warm water is also great for warming up your digestive system if it's a bit sluggish)
- Carry a reusable filled water bottle with you wherever you go (we love the ones that have time stamps as reminders to regularly drink throughout the day)
2. Key to managing IBS is rest and de-stress
One of the keys to better digestion and controlling your IBS is managing your stress levels. Stress can cause IBS flare ups by altering the way your digestive system works.
When you're stressed, your body releases cortisol, which is a hormone that can increase inflammation and lead to diarrhoea or constipation. When you're feeling stressed, your body goes into "fight or flight" mode and the sympathetic nervous system is activated. This can disrupt digestion and cause you to feel bloated and uncomfortable.
The impact of stress on your gut is being studied more and more. Whatever your stresses are in life, they can take a mental and physical toll on your body — including causing flares ups of IBS symptoms in your gut and disrupting healthy digestion.
Even short-term stresses can cause loss of appetite or choosing convenient options that inevitably slow your digestion down. In the longer term, stress can trigger or worsen conditions such as leaky gut, IBS and GERD.
Rest and relaxation is great for the gut because it gives your digestive system a break. While we're asleep, our gut continues to process our food and absorb nutrients to send them to where our body needs them. It also allows your body to focus on repairing and restoring balance.
So it's important to find ways to de-stress and relax your mind and body. This is easier said than done, we know! There are also lots of great relaxation techniques that can help you to calm down quickly - find what works for you.
Self care to de-stress and prevent IBS flare ups:
- This could be anything from reading a book, taking a bath or going for a walk outdoors.
- Practices such as yoga, meditation and mindfulness can help to reduce stress levels and promote feelings of calm (of course the movement of yoga helps too). We love the Calm App for meditation and relaxation.
3. Beat the IBS bloat with exercise and movement
Yes, you read that right! Exercise can help to ease the symptoms of IBS.
When you have an IBS flare up, especially if you're in pain, the last thing you probably want to do is exercise. But as soon as you feel able to, even a small amount of movement helps to promote healthy digestion and reduce inflammation.
Exercise helps to stimulate the gut muscles and encourages peristalsis - the natural movement of food through your digestive system. It also helps to regulate bowel movements, which can be erratic when you have IBS.
Plus, exercise releases endorphins, which are "feel good" hormones that can help to reduce stress levels and improve your mood - both of which can aggravate IBS symptoms.
So how much exercise do you need? The general recommendation is around 30 minutes per day, but even 10-15 minutes of light exercise can make a difference. If you’re struggling with pain, start slowly and work your way up gradually.
Best exercise after an IBS flare up:
- Firstly, choose exercise you enjoy - it's key to sticking it.
- Swimming and yoga are great exercises for people with IBS as they're gentle and you can go at your own pace.
Making healthy gut choice habits - your gut will be grateful.
Making small good gut choices will make sure your insides stay healthy - and allow you to get on with living life.