Irritable Bowel Syndrome (or IBS for short) might not be something that comes up in conversation over lunch; it is, after all a rather personal subject. But we think it’s time to break the silence, so pop the kettle on and let’s have a nice frank talk. At any one time around 15% of the British population are living with IBS - that’s ten million people right here in the UK. If you’ve recently been diagnosed with IBS, or think you may have it, don’t worry, there are lots of simple ways to manage the symptoms.
So, what are the symptoms of IBS? Without delving too far into the biology (or the gory details) IBS is essentially a long-term condition affecting the digestive system. IBS causes some nasty tummy problems; aches and cramps, diarrhea, constipation and, on occasion, it can be severely painful. Ouch. It affects approximately twice as many women as men and can be related to stress, diet, food intolerance and lifestyle.
What can I do to soothe IBS symptoms? Faced with a life sentence, what can you do? Sadly, there are no quick fixes but there are some simple ways to alleviate symptoms. Here are three simple, natural ideas…
1. Exercise, gently
Don’t click away – we’re not talking about marathon training or weight lifting… we’re flying the flag for gentle exercise. A nice breezy walk, a leisurely swim or even just a spot of housework will do wonders for IBS sufferers. Stress is a known trigger for IBS and gentle exercise is great for alleviating stress so why not take a therapeutic stroll in the area around your home or workplace once a day, perhaps during a lunch or tea break?
2. Figure out the triggers
IBS comes in all shapes and sizes, so in order for you to stay in control, you need to know what your personal “triggers" are. Is it lactose? Caffeine? Stress? Too much fibre or too little? The easiest way to work it out is to keep a food diary and keep track of which food groups set you off, so that you can then reduce or eliminate these from your diet. The general recommendation is to avoid high fat meals and to get a fair share of fibre and probiotics, which will keep your gut happy.
3. Swap the pop & get the kettle on
Carbonation, the process which puts the fizz into a fizzy drink, along with caffeine which is commonly found in many sparkling drinks, are known to trigger IBS symptoms. Why not swap the pop for still water, or even better, a lovely cup of tea? Certain herbal blends, which are naturally caffeine-free, can relieve the symptoms of IBS. Chamomile, fennel, ginger and peppermint teas are all thought to combat tummy cramps and spasms.