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Managing Uncomfortable Symptoms of IBS
Living with IBS can be challenging. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to effectively relieve gassiness, pain and bloating. Let’s take a look at measures you can take right now to help you live more comfortably and increase your general level of wellbeing.
Consult a Health Care Professional
It’s important to consult with a health care expert in order to be properly diagnosed. Other gastrointestinal conditions present similar symptoms as IBS, some of which are serious, and others require different strategies to manage symptoms.
Accurate diagnosis is essential to prevent further health problems and begin prompt, effective treatment. There are many medications available to promote healthy patterns of bowel elimination, relieve discomfort and prevent spasms.
Consider an Alternative Health Expert
No one health care provider has all the answers for managing and treating any health issue, so keep an open mind. Herbalists, natural health practitioners, and Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) experts are just a few of the many types of practitioners who can provide support. Regardless of the type of interventions you implement, make sure your health care providers know about all treatments you are using.
The TCM Approach to Treating IBS
Unlike Western medical practitioners, experts in the field of TCM approach IBS as an imbalance of energy within the body. Treatments are aimed at removing blockages and restoring the free flow of energy. Modalities such as tai chi, acupuncture, qi gong, Chinese herbs and acupressure are used to restore proper energy balance and relieve pain.
Ayurvedic Experts Create Customized Wellness Plans
Ayurvedic experts do not view IBS as one disease. They will conduct an extensive health assessment and base your diagnosis upon your symptoms. Your dosha, basic body-mind type, presenting problems, and elimination patterns will be considered while formulating a diagnosis and treatment plan.
Your treatment plan might be very different than someone else’s who has IBS if you consult with an Ayurvedic expert. Ayurvedic practitioners may recommend dietary changes, fasting, exercise, massage, or herbal remedies to treat IBS.
Use Herbs to Relieve Symptoms
Western herbalists may recommend you follow specific dietary guidelines and are likely to recommend herbal treatments.
Some of the most effective herbs for treating IBS include mint, catnip, chamomile, dill, fennel, marshmallow, slippery elm and licorice. Individual herbs may be prescribed, however blends are often the most effective.
You can buy pre-formulated blends, however for best results consult with an herbalist who can custom blend a remedy for you. Herbs help to tone intestinal tissues, promote healthy stool consistency, and relieve pain and gas. They contain concentrated, natural compounds that relieve inflammation and promote healing.
Can IBS cause back pain? Back pain is a commonly reported symptom in people with IBS. Learn more about the connection between IBS and back pain here.
Keep a Wellness Journal
Keeping a wellness journal is one of the most important habits you can get into. It can be as detailed or simple as you want, as long as it includes entries about food, activity and symptoms. Make note of modalities you are using to treat your illness.
Your journal will help you identify patterns of symptoms, help you notice what treatments work and if something needs to be changed or eliminated. You will notice what foods or food groups agree with you and be able to identify those that cause you distress.
Follow a Fiber-Rich, Healthy Diet
Eating a healthy diet is essential for symptom management, as well as for general wellness. Unless your health care practitioner says otherwise, you should attempt to consume at least 35 grams of fiber every day.
Fiber helps regulate bowel function, prevents constipation, and reduces the risk of diarrhea occurring. Fiber-rich diets also reduce straining, hemorrhoid formation, discomfort and urgency.
If you have not been eating adequate amounts of fiber, increase your intake of it slowly as gassiness and discomfort may temporarily increase if you raise your consumption too rapidly. Many IBS symptoms are related to cramping and changes in stool consistency. While fiber supplements are helpful, try to get most of your fiber naturally from fruits and vegetables.
You are probably aware of some of the foods that cause you to become symptomatic (this is where your journal comes in very handy). Limit your consumption of gas-producing foods such as cucumbers, onions, and members of the cabbage family.
Alcohol and caffeine may increase symptoms, so watch your intake of both. You may still be able to eat problematic foods and drinks, just infrequently or in small amounts.
Learn to Relax
Learning how to relax is one of the most important things you can do for yourself. Your emotions directly impact gastrointestinal function, so stress results in increased inflammation and irritability of your gastrointestinal tract. Since you already have a sensitive digestive tract, it is critical you take steps to avoid increasing irritability further.
Get outside, exercise regularly, have fun with friends, and make sure you get enough sleep. Learn relaxation techniques, such as meditation, progressive muscle relaxation or guided imagery.
Look at your life — do you need to adjust your priorities in order to put yourself and your health first? Are their tasks you can delegate? What can you do to simplify your life?
If relaxation is challenging for you, consider talking to a counselor. You may also benefit from joining a support group or taking a class in time management skills.
There are many habits you can develop and steps to take to make IBS a smaller aspect of your life. While some interventions may provide rapid relief, you must develop and follow a comprehensive treatment plan for long-term management.
Like any other journey, your path to wellness begins with taking one small step right now. What habit are you going to begin to develop today to ensure IBS does not have as much of an impact on your life?