Chapter 5 - More Ways to Treat IBS Symptoms
The FODMAP diet has been shown to dramatically reduce symptoms in most people with IBS, but sometimes, specific symptoms like constipation and bloating can be stubborn to treat completely.
While it’s true that diet alone can probably reduce the severity and frequency of your symptoms, you’d be lovin’ life a lot more if you consider adding on other simple strategies.
With the combination of diet and lifestyle changes, you can feel your absolute best!
In this chapter, we’ll cover other proven IBS treatments as well as the best strategies for your unique symptoms. You’ll learn:
How to deal with IBS-D
How to tackle stubborn IBS-C
Simple ways to reduce bloating
Are probiotics worth it and what kind to take?
Let’s get started!
IBS-D: Slow It Down, Ease On Up, and Calm your Belly
They say all things in life will pass. That’s especially true, unfortunately, when you’re suffering with IBS-D.
The goal here is to calm things down, and get to the point where your body is happy, and you can live your life freely without the urgency and anxiety of checking to make sure you’re always within ten feet of a bathroom!
When it comes to IBS-D, stress is a major trigger. Recognizing the sources of stress in your life, both chronic and acute, can help you with your IBS-D symptoms.
Chronic stress is any kind of stress you (and your body!) has to deal with on a day-in, day-out basis. This could be your living situation, the stress of a job you’ve had for a while, that grinding strain that you might have just internalized. Our bodies aren’t great at dealing with chronic stress; we see our sleep affected, our health impacted in so many ways. Identifying chronic stress sources and working to alleviate them can do wonders for your overall health.
Acute stress is the sudden and often unexpected stressors that occur over a shorter, but often more intense period of time. Our bodies do better with handling these stresses—a minor car accident, a worrying meeting with the boss, a fight with your spouse, partner, or family member—but they can still trigger symptoms.
The first step is identifying the sources and types of stress in your life. Then, make a plan to manage both long-term stressors, as well as those in-the-moment, acute situations. Try new techniques until you find the ones that work for you.
These could be anything from incorporating a mindful meditation or gentle exercise practice, visualization and breathing techniques, to reaching out to mental health resources to build better strategies for stress management.
You don’t have to let stress drive your life, or define your health.
More Ways to Tackle IBS-D
Look at fiber intake. Fiber’s great, but don’t eat too much; most of the fiber you consume should be soluble fiber, which helps regulate bowels. (I recommend Heather’s Tummy Fiber!)
Observe if caffeine triggers you and reduce your intake if needed. Yes, you might feel like life is completely impossible without your morning cup of Joe, but if the trade-off is fewer sprints to the bathroom? Worth it.
Check to see if you have a dairy intolerance or sensitivity. Hard cheeses and lactose-free dairy are low FODMAP, but they’ll still trigger symptoms if you’re sensitive.
IBS-C: When Things Are a Little Too Slowed Down...
On the other side of the IBS spectrum is IBS-C. Constipation is a bit less common than IBS-D, and it’s a bit more difficult to treat.
Using one or more of these additional strategies, along with a low-FODMAP Diet, can take your belly from good to great.
Include a variety of fiber in your diet
Insoluble fiber, found in fruit and vegetable skins as well as whole grains, adds bulk, pushes stool through the bowels
Soluble fiber, from sources like fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, flax and chia, helps to softens stool
Resistant starch, found in under-ripe bananas, cooked and cooled potatoes, and legumes (canned, rinsed lentils and chickpeas are great low-FODMAP options) feeds the good bacteria in your gut with prebiotic fiber.
Consider a fiber supplement, such as metamucil, psyllium, or my favorite, Heather's Tummy Fiber, which contains only soluble fiber.
Consider an osmotic laxative for occasional constipation - Miralax is a super-gentle option. It doesn’t cause cramping and bloating like stimulant laxatives can.
How to Ease a Bloated Stomach
If bloating has got you beat, you’re not out of options. Apart from making sure you’re consistent and clear on your FODMAP intake, you can try:
Watching out for bubbly drinks. Sucks, but all those bubbles in your LaCroix might be swell in all the wrong ways.
Check your drinking habits, before you wreck yourself… straws, chugging, drinking too fast, all of that can mean you might be swallowing more air than you intend.
And that goes for food, too. Chew thoughtfully, eat until you’re satiated, but not crammed full of food.
Eat till you’re satisfied, but not stuffed. Getting in the habit of eating smaller meals more frequently helps with bloat and other IBS symptoms too.
Put time on your side. Eating fresh fruit earlier in the day can sometimes help your body digest it more efficiently.
Heat up the greens! Cooked vegetables are easier to digest than raw ones.
Increase fiber intake slowly. Too much fiber when your body isn’t used to it often has the opposite effect you’re hoping for: constipation and bloating.
Stay hydrated, but watch out for salt.
Probiotics for IBS
Probiotics are supplements containing different strains of live bacteria that can be beneficial to your gut health.
These tiny guys live inside your digestive tract and contribute to what’s known overall as your gut flora. This, in turn, can affect your digestive health, immune system, and a whole host of other benefits.
But what you want to know is, can adding a probiotic help with my IBS symptoms?
The short answer to that question is… probably, yes.
The longer answer is that it depends on what your individual symptoms are, your personal gut flora, and what strain of probiotic you take.
Some high-quality probiotics that might be a good choice, include:
VSL #3 is made for IBS
Align is a good option
ProBiota Bifido, from Seeking Health has only B. Infantis, a good choice for those who might not be able to tolerate the Lactobacillus strain
The FODMAP Diet is the most powerful tool we have for relieving IBS, but it’s not a magic pill…
...However, when you combine it with lifestyle changes, stress management, and other strategies, you can have maximum control over how your belly feels.
In the next chapter we’re talking about your social life--at least where it revolves around food. Keep reading to learn: How to Eat Out on the FODMAP Diet!
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