How I Try To Manage My IBS Symptoms The Natural Way
Last updated: June 2018
After being diagnosed with IBS, I had a feeling of relief, because finally, after many years of not knowing what was wrong with me, I could do something to help myself, also by gaining the right knowledge.
My doctor referred me to a dietician specialized in helping people with IBS, but while I was waiting for my appointment, I started to research this disorder. Not surprisingly, I came across a lot of sites promoting several over-the-counter drugs to assist with diarrhea and constipation and all sort of other medications for IBS.
Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful for doctors and medicines, and when I have headaches, I do pop in a couple of pills to feel better, but if possible, I prefer to look at natural ways to heal myself.
These are some of the things I personally do, to help reduce my IBS symptoms (the natural way):
Follow a modified low FODMAP diet
Initially, I followed a very strict low FODMAP diet for a few weeks, but eventually I was able to successfully reintroduce some of my favorite high FODMAP food, even if in small quantities. Nowadays, my diet is around 80% low FODMAP, but I have some high FODMAP food, almost every day. This is very important, as high FODMAP food contain prebiotics, which are necessarily to maintain a healthy gut.1
I usually do at least 45 minutes of moderate exercise, a few times per week, and this assist with improving my general well-being and reduce my stress level. Physical activity also helps things moving in the bowel department, which is important for those suffering from constipation.2
In a 2011 study, it was shown that a moderately increased physical activity is effective in improving IBS symptoms and that exercise should be used as a treatment for IBS.3
Stress does not only affect high blood pressure, heart problems and weight gain, in addition to those conditions, there is evidence that psychological stress has an impact on our intestines and can cause flares-up. For this reason, a treatment to improve IBS, should also consider ways to manage stress.4
Personally, I realized that many of my symptoms were triggered by stress, so I started to look at what I could do to relieve some of the stress and anxiety I was feeling.
In appearance, I am a very calm person, even in stressful situations, but I guess my mental stress grew steadily inside of me, probably through the course of many years.
There are other things I regularly do, in addition to a moderate physical activity, to help reduce stress in my daily life:
Meditation and relaxation
When I wake up in the morning, I listen to positive thinking guided meditation and this sets me in the right direction for the day; and at night time I choose a relaxing one to help me fall asleep. On YouTube I find all sorts of meditations and relaxation music, which lasts from a few minutes to a few hours. I have noticed that even 10-15 minutes per day of meditation gives me a sense of inside peace and calm.
Plan my time
I am very much a person that goes with the flow, so planning and scheduling does not come naturally to me, but I know without a doubt that when I plan and set goals for the day or even better, for the week, I finish most of the tasks I had planned to accomplish and as a result, I feel more relaxed. If I don’t get around to organize my time properly or things come up at the last minute and my schedule is all over the place, I feel anxious and stressed, which ends up triggering my IBS symptoms.
I love the smell of my pure essential oils. I have a diffuser on my bedside table and every night I put a few drops of bergamot, which has calming effect or a few drops of peppermint which promotes digestive health together with lemon essential oil, which is also good for digestion. Several studies have demonstrated that peppermint oil, ingested in enteric-coated capsules, can help treat many of those nasty IBS symptoms, such as bloating, gas, and diarrhea.5
Essential oils have a lot of benefits, but should be used with the guidance of a qualified aromatherapist.
There are other natural ways to reduce your stress and by consequence improve your IBS symptoms, like for example gut-directed hypnotherapy, mindfulness exercises and cognitive behavioral therapy.6
Whatever therapies and remedies we are interested in pursuing, I believe it is important to remember that we should seek the support of a specialised health practitioner, who can guide us through the best tailored approach to increase the chances of improving our symptoms.
Do you suffer from IBS-C, IBS-D, or IBS-Mixed/Alternating?