Can Better Posture and Sleeping Positions Improve IBS?

I remember one night about 15 years ago, I was having a really bad IBS flare while visiting a friend of mine. After multiple trips to the bathroom, I was lying curled up in the guest bed in a fetal position. Her boyfriend came over to talk to me and was lending a sympathetic ear.

"You know, it may help you feel better to straighten out your body instead of laying there curled up," he said.

Sleep position inhibits digestion

I asked him why and he explained certain Eastern medicine practitioners he had studied with thought poor posture or laying in curled up position actually inhibited digestion. He explained that I was literally crimping up the stomach and GI tract and standing up straight or laying flat on the back with legs straight out instead could in fact help the digestive process.

I was skeptical, but I did uncurl myself on the bed and found that within a short while I felt slightly better (which may have just been a coincidence). After that, I began to make a conscious attempt to improve my posture and sleep in healthier positions that promote better digestion.

In fact, I have found that sleeping on my back has been very helpful over the years in helping my digestive issues. For my GERD, I also elevate either my bed with risers or use an elevating wedge pillow to ward away acid reflux. In fact, sleeping on one's back or left side actually can help aid in digestion and alleviate some IBS symptoms (while sleeping on the right side can impinge on digestion and exacerbate IBS symptoms). 1,2

Posture's impact on IBS

A study from 2003 also found that posture can contribute to bloating and gas retention in the body. In particular, the research concluded that being upright actually helped relieve bloating more than lying down.2 Personally, I sometimes find myself feeling better and having more relief with bloating when laying down, but sometimes I will move around and adopt different positions to see what helps.

If you are having a difficult time with IBS, you may consider trying to improve your posture or changing up your sleep positions to see if that helps.

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