First 3 Steps in IBS Treatment
When you first get diagnosed with IBS it can be overwhelming. What does it mean? How can I fix it? Then you go online and start googling and are overwhelmed with a lot of information and advice. So where do you start? While my treatments are personalized to each of my clients, there are 3 things that I do with almost every client at the beginning of their treatment which have a great impact.
Eliminate gluten and dairy
These are the 2 most common food intolerances that I see, so it is good to start here. This elimination needs to be for at least 3 months to be sure that the digestive system and the body as a whole has a chance to detox from these and start to heal. If symptoms are still present, and food intolerances are indicated, I would then move on to stricter elimination diets like FODMAPS, low histamine etc. and it is best to see a health care professional before moving onto this.
Learn breathing techniques
Breathing is the best way to move from a stressed state to a more relaxed state. Stress can exacerbate IBS symptoms and can be a trigger for many as well, so learning to control and manage your stress levels can have a big impact. Breathing techniques can be used in emergency situations and as part of a daily practice. Simply breathing in for four counts and breathing out for four counts can reduce your stress levels and tension in your body quite quickly. When we are stressed we breathe in a shallow way from the chest, so dropping your breathing into your belly can cause your body to think that it is not stressed and reduce cortisol, your stress hormone. One tip I give to many clients is to use bathroom breaks to remind you to breathe. So, every time you go to the bathroom, take an extra 30 seconds to a minute to stop and do some breathing. You are already alone, and no one will notice an extra minute. You can then return to work or whatever you were doing, more relaxed and better able to concentrate.
The connection between the mind and the body especially with digestive problems like IBS is so important to look after. This third step of keeping a diet and symptom diary, brings together the food and the mindset techniques by getting you to write down and acknowledge what you have eaten and the symptoms that are occurring and by doing this make connections between how you are feeling and what you are eating. Another part of this is also to write down when stress, anxiety or depression, other conditions such as acne, skin irritation or fatigue are occurring to see whether there are also connections here with what you are eating. This can be a very eye-opening exercise and help you gain more clarity on your condition.
Luckily living in the 21st Century means we have apps that can help us do this. By all means, do it with paper and pen, but I find most of my clients prefer apps for convenience. There are many different apps available but the one I recommend is MySymptoms, which allows you to download your diary and email to your doctor or health care practitioner. It also does a basic analysis of your food intake and symptoms and can show you correlations, which is amazing!
With these 3 relatively simple steps you are on your way to understanding and healing your condition. After you have implemented these for 3 months, please see your health care provider to plan your next steps.
Do you live with any sleep disorders (eg. insomnia, RLS, sleep apnea) in addition to IBS?