What You Need To Know About Irritable Bowel Syndrome
By Jill Smart
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Maybe you’ve heard of it. Maybe you personally deal with it.
IBS is a common disorder affecting the large intestine, causing a variety of symptoms including (but certainly not limited to) cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, diarrhea and constipation. IBS is a chronic condition that often requires prescribed medication to control recurring spasms within the intestine. Management of this disorder includes dietary changes, regular exercise and reduction of stress.
The cause is currently unknown.
Here’s what we do know…
In a normally functioning large intestine, the walls of the intestine are lined with layers of muscle, contracting and relaxing in a coordinated rhythm. This consistent rhythm moves food from the stomach to the intestinal tract and rectum.
Sounds important, right? And it is!
When IBS acts up, those contractions may be stronger and last longer than normal, causing digestive disturbances; or the opposite can occur, when intestinal contractions are weak and slow down the passage of food, leading to hard, dry stools.
Abnormalities in the gastrointestinal nervous system can cause severe discomfort when the abdomen stretches from gas or stool. Poorly coordinated signals between the brain and the intestines make the body overreact to these changes normally occurring in the digestive process, resulting in pain, diarrhea or constipation.
I speak from experience when I say… IBS is not fun… not fun at all.
There are several known common triggers for IBS, including:
- Food: Food allergies or intolerances intensified by IBS are not clear, but many people have severe symptoms when eating certain foods — chocolate, spices, fats, fruits, beans, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, milk, carbonated beverages and alcohol to name a few.
- Stress: IBS signs and symptoms are worse or more frequent during periods of increased stress. Stress may aggravate symptoms, but is not thought to be the initial cause.
- Hormones: Women are twice as likely to have IBS. Research shows that hormonal changes play a role in this condition. Many women find that signs and symptoms are worse during or around menstrual periods.
- Other Illnesses: Acute episodes of gastroenteritis (infectious diarrhea) or bacterial overgrowth (too many bacteria in the intestines) can trigger IBS.
What can you do to improve your symptoms?
Research on underlying causes – including what and how we eat (often poorly/mindlessly), our stress levels (often high), food-borne illness and use of commonly over prescribed medications – are all leading to the conclusion that restoring balance is key!
IBS doesn’t lend itself to a quick fix, but rather to a holistic approach that is deeper and focuses on treating the root cause, which brings health to far more than just your gut.
These 4 Tips have helped me on my journey to healing and my hope is that they can help you too!
1. Refine Your Diet. A plant-based, whole-foods diet is a given in with IBS. Unfortunately, even healthy foods can trigger reactions.
- Cooked vegetables are easier to digest.
- Including low sugar, vegetable based juices will give you concentrated, absorbable nutrition and will allow the digestive tract to rest and heal.
- Soluble fiber (found in oatmeal, berries, carrots and legumes) can help your digestion, whereas insoluble fiber (such as vegetable skins) can worsen symptoms.
- Reduce or eliminate caffeine and alcohol.
- Ruling out food sensitivities or allergies is done by slowly eliminating common allergens and irritants like gluten, dairy, sugar and soy from your diet to see how you feel.
2. Rebalance Your Gut. IBS research stresses the importance of maintaining a healthy balance of flora in your GI tract. Improving your diet will help restore this equilibrium, particularly if you include fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir and kombucha. Managing stress also helps. Probiotic supplements have shown some promise in studies, but you may need to do some trial and error to find what works for you.
3. Exercise In Moderation. Gentle exercise – such as walking and yoga – can help people with IBS. These exercises in particular help to relieve stress and reduce inflammation. Those with constipation related to IBS can benefit from increasing their fitness routine, while diarrhea-prone sufferers may need to limit aerobic activity to less than 45 minutes.
4. Master Your Mind/Body Connection. Use a mindful approach to become more aware of what’s happening in your day and what your stressors are. Simple stress-busting techniques, like deep breathing, stimulate the vagus nerve (that gut-brain superhighway). There are plenty of benefits to hypnosis, meditation, biofeedback and yoga for IBS symptom relief.
The key to reducing your IBS symptoms is taking in an abundance of quickly absorbed nutrients. Juicing is a powerful tool, often able to aid in the healing process of everything from stomach ulcers to strengthening the immune system (due to the high concentration of phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals in fresh fruits and vegetables).
For healing or detoxification purposes, begin to change your diet by eliminating processed, over-cooked food. Eat whole organic fruits, vegetables, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds and eat a mostly vegetarian based diet that includes drinking fresh juice at least 1-2 times per day.
IBS Juice Recipe
- ½ Head of Cabbage
- 1 Cucumber
- 1 knuckle of fresh Ginger
- ½ cup of Peppermint
- Add all ingredients to vegetable juicer.
- Gently mix juice and consume immediately.
Jill Smart RN, BSN is a Certified Fitlife.tv Transformation Coach, with over 21 years of nursing experience. She is also a former Jazzercise Instructor.
Jill joined Fitlife.tv in October 2013 after a significant weight gain from a knee injury. She began Fitlife Small Group Coaching program in February 2014 and to date has lost over 80 pounds! Her passion for helping people allows her to assist clients who are ready to transform their nutritional and mindset habits.
Jill believes it is her mission to contribute to a greater cause and you will find her leading by example. If you are looking for someone that wants to help by making the most impact possible, you can connect with her.
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