Author: Dr. Liz Dalglish, ND
Dr. Liz is a Collingwood naturopath who provides evidence-based care to those struggling with brain fog, memory issues, chronic pain, fatigue, and all things related to your period. Click here to schedule a free consult with Dr. Liz.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a common condition that affects the day-to-day lives of many people. Patients normally present with digestive concerns like diarrhea alternating with constipation, bloating and flatulence. Those who struggle with this condition can have bowel movements so frequently that it can really affect their quality of life. Leaving the home for an extended period of time can be a struggle as they might not have easy access to a washroom. Eating out at a restaurant could cause a flare up. Holding down a job could be a huge challenge if you have to get up every few minutes from your desk and run to the toilet. It can be quite stressful and challenging for people to function normally.
Fortunately, there are lots of small changes you can make to help manage this chronic condition, so check out the top six simple tips to help prevent an IBS flare up!
1. Eat slowly & chew your food.
By slowing down your eating, you are more mindful of the food you are eating and are less likely to overeat. Rest your utensils between bitefuls or if you are talking with someone over a meal. Chewing your food can help break down your food to make it more easily digestible. It can also signal your stomach to make more hydrochloric acid that encourages healthy breakdown of food.
2. Know and avoid dietary triggers.
While there are no foods that explicitly can prevent IBS, knowing if you have certain dietary triggers can definitely help to avoid flare ups. Bouts of indigestion can be avoided by staying away from fried foods, greasy or fatty foods, caffeine, carbonated beverages like sodas or beer, citrus (e.g. lemon, lime, oranges, clementines, grapefruit) and chocolate. An elimination diet could also be an option that helps you determine which foods trigger you more than others, but talk to your naturopath or other healthcare provider about this one before you venture down it on your own, as eliminating certain foods from your diet can be a stressful process!
3. Limit gas-producing foods.
Certain foods like beans and legumes (e.g. black beans, pinto beans, edamame, cruciferous vegetables (e.g. broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage), carbonated beverages like sodas or beer, dairy products (e.g. buttermilk, cream, ice cream), dried fruits, and substitute sweeteners like sorbitol can increase gas, bloating and cause diarrhea, so eating these feeds in moderation is definitely a good idea for someone with IBS.
4. Cook your fibre.
The vegetables and fruits that you incorporate into your diet are important for your overall health, but can be difficult for people with certain digestive issues to eat and aggravate their symptoms. One way to get your veggies and fruits in your diet is to cook them; this can break down some of the fibre and ease the burden on your digestive tract. Doesn’t matter if they are steamed, boiled, pureed, roasted, baked, added to soups or stews… whatever works for your lifestyle is best!
5. Use relaxation techniques before meals.
There is lots out in the literature about the interaction stress, anxiety and your mood and how it impacts your gut. If you have a condition like IBS, you are more likely to deal with anxiety too. One great tip you can implement on your own is taking a moment before your meal to engage in some relaxation techniques. Some ideas include an easy breathing exercise (i.e. take 10, 15 or 20 deep breaths, in through your nose and out through your mouth), doing a 5-minute stress relief meditation through an app on your Phone (my favourite free app is Calm), or even practicing gratitude or prayer by yourself or with someone else before you eat. These ideas can help you activate your parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for different processes in your body including digestion.
6. Drinking teas.
The process of making and drinking tea can be a calming experience for many people. Herbs like chamomile are anxiolytic and can help reduce stress and while others like peppermint are carminitives that help promote digestion. Steeping tea for 15 mins in hot water with the tea mug covered is the ideal method of preparation.
Having an individualized treatment plan made for your specific case is a great option to help improve your digestive symptoms associated with IBS. Talk to your licensed naturopath or other healthcare practitioner about what different interventions are right for your particular case! If you are interested in booking an appointment with a Collingwood naturopath, please book through our online booking link as we would be more than happy to work with you towards your health goals!