IBS is a common condition affecting one in five Australians and causes a number of uncomfortable symptoms including abdominal pain, gas, bloating, diarrhoea and/or constipation. With many of the symptoms digestive in nature, the digestive system and gastrointestinal tract is a good place to start when looking at ways to manage the condition. Leading dietician Chloe McLeod shares her top five tips for aiding digestion for those suffering with IBS.
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1. Restore the natural balance of bacteria
Probiotics are increasingly recognised for their role in overall health and wellbeing and in particular for maintaining a healthy digestive system. The body needs good bacteria, or probiotics, for a number of things. However, these bacteria are often fragile. Common lifestyle issues such as diet, changes in routine, travel and stress can disrupt the natural balance of intestinal flora. For those suffering with IBS, symptoms can often be triggered by many of these factors, making the delicate balance of bacteria key to managing the illness.
Probiotics can restore natural balance in the digestive system. For those suffering with IBS, a probiotic strain called Bifantis (Bifidobacterium infantis 35624) has been clinically proven to help relieve symptoms such as abdominal pain, gas and bloating.
2. Try a FODMAP friendly diet
For many people, FODMAPs play a role in the development of IBS symptoms. FODMAPs (Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols) are a collection of short chain carbohydrates and sugar alcohols found in foods naturally or as food additives. Some examples of FODMAPs food including onion, garlic and asparagus. Most people don’t react to all types of FODMAPs so determining which FODMAPs are specific triggers for you can go a long way in helping to manage symptoms. Start off my eliminating all major FODMAP food, determine which ones are triggers, and slowly reintroduce to determine what your specific triggers are.
3. Avoid other common food triggers
Whilst FODMAPs are the most often discussed food triggers of IBS, there are a number of other foods that can trigger symptoms. Coffee, fatty food and spicy food are all common triggers of IBS
symptoms, with all three having an impact on speed of gut motility. Keeping intake of these in your diet at a level you can tolerate as an individual is recommended.
4. Practice mindful eating
As we’ve know, IBS symptoms are digestive in nature. Gas and bloating are often a sure fire sign that the digestive system isn’t working properly. In order to help our system along, we need to thoroughly and slowly chew our food. This helps to activate digestion ensuring that digestive enzymes are excreted which helps your body digest food properly. In addition to this, the practice of eating slowly is a form of mindfulness and an excellent way to manage stress.
5. Stress less
Stress can impact our body’s ability to digest properly causing it to spasm or seize up, resulting in diarrhoea or constipation. Stress can also impact the delicate balance of bacteria in our microbiome, something we already know can impact and exacerbate symptoms.
Implementing a daily relaxation ritual or practice such as walking, meditation or gentle exercise can help to de-stress and calm your nervous system in turn calming your digestive system. Yoga is great as it not only offers the benefits of deep diaphragmatic breathing, a practice which activates the relaxation response, but some poses may help restore motility in the gut by applying gentle pressure and releasing tension in the abdomen.