Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can be a difficult condition to experience. Stress, anxiety, or certain foods and drinks can result in digestive disturbances.
But some tips may help reduce flare-ups in the long term. Some examples might include managing stress using deep breathing exercises, eating more fiber-rich foods, and avoiding foods or drinks that can lead to digestive distress.
Take a look at these seven tips to keep your flare-ups at bay.
Stress-related symptoms — like abdominal pain and bloating — can occur more often and intensely in people with IBS than in people without it. Managing the stress in your life is important in avoiding flare-ups.
Several effective methods for stress management can improve IBS symptoms, including deep breathing and yoga. The secret is to breathe from your diaphragm, not your chest, to relax your abdominal muscles.
Another stress soother is called progressive relaxation, or Jacobson’s relaxation technique. Relaxing the muscles in your body can help relieve an upset stomach.
Start by tensing and then relaxing the muscles in your feet. Then move your way up through your calves, thighs, abdomen, arms, and each main muscle group, ending with your face and scalp. Concentrate on releasing the tension in each body part as you go.
Counseling may be an effective way to help reduce stress in some people. In counseling, a psychiatrist can help you reduce stress by examining how you respond to life events and guiding you toward more effective responses.
Biofeedback builds on the concept of “mind over matter.” During this therapy, machines help measure your heart rate, muscle tension, body temperature, sweat, and brain wave activity.
This therapy is designed to show you how your body works so you can use the information to develop ways to manage some body functions, addressing negative health effects.
In addition to stress management techniques, tweaking your diet can help prevent IBS. One of the most common ways is to incorporate more fiber into your meals.
However, while dietary fiber can ease some gastrointestinal symptoms (like constipation), it can worsen other symptoms (like gas and cramping). To minimize negative health effects, try a gradual increase of fiber for a few weeks.
Certain foods are known to make IBS symptoms worse. Watch what makes your symptoms worse, and avoid those foods.
Some common foods to avoid can include:
- sugar-free sweeteners (such as sorbitol or mannitol)
Some people also experience digestive disturbances from consuming dairy. Consider substituting yogurt for milk or decreasing the dairy products you consume. Other things that might work are breaking down lactose with an enzyme product or combining dairy with other foods.
While drinking enough fluids each day can help IBS symptoms, not all fluids have the same effect on your stomach. Water soothes stomach distress, but several other beverages can cause stomach distress, including:
- alcoholic drinks
- coffee, tea, and other caffeinated drinks
- carbonated drinks, like soda
Alcohol and drinks with caffeine may worsen diarrhea. Soda and other drinks with carbonation can cause gas.
While these seven tips may not always bring instant relief, they can result in long-term solutions. For example, try different techniques to ease your stress and improve your diet to relieve your IBS symptoms. You can help to manage your condition by making healthy choices.