A typical flare up of symptoms can be irritating at best and debilitating at worst. This can especially be troublesome at work when your stomach starts to feel crampy and queasy, then you start to feel bloated and gassy and need to rush to the toilet.
Although the true causes or cure have not been discovered, there is hope for IBS sufferers. We explore five ways that may help control your IBS symptoms.
1. Follow a low FODMAP diet
FODMAPs are carbohydrates that ferment in the stomach. They are thought to irritate the stomach lining in susceptible people when eaten in large amounts, which can trigger IBS symptoms.
The diet cuts down on fructans (typically found in garlic and onions), fructose foods (including apples, pears and honey), galactans (which are found in beans and pulses) and polyols (common in sweeteners and stone fruits).
2. Consider the amount of fibre in foods
Depending on the type of IBS you suffer from, eating foods that contain fibre could either improve your situation or worsen it. Whatever type you suffer from, foods that contain high amounts of insoluble fibre such as whole grains, cabbage and onions are advised to be kept at a minimum (unless you find you can tolerate them).
3. Drink water
Staying well hydrated is key for good digestive health and can help ease IBS symptoms. This is extremely important for those with symptoms that include constipation, as it can make stools easier to pass.
Regular exercise is thought to ease the symptoms of IBS. So, if you’re doing less than 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week, you may want to start doing a bit more.
Strenuous exercise like full-on gym workouts and long distance running should typically be avoided. This is because overdoing it could make your symptoms worse. Instead, try walking, swimming or cycling.
Therapy is recommended to patients that don’t respond to first line treatments. Research indicates that cognitive behavioural therapy, mindfulness training and psychodynamic therapy can be effective in managing symptoms. The evidence suggests, however, that hypnotherapy has the best success rate.
As the NHS waiting list is so long, you may want to find a private hypnotherapist if you don’t feel you can wait.
Whatever road you want to explore, your GP will be able to offer advice.