IBS symptoms and how to manage them

Irritable Bowel Syndrome is often a lifelong condition and can have some pretty difficult side effects. Check out these simple ways of managing IBS symptoms.

IBS affects 17% of people in the UK. People with IBS may experience a range of symptoms, ranging from mild discomfort to severe cramping. It’s common to experience mild symptoms that get worse from time to time, during ‘flare ups’.

Common symptoms include stomach cramping, bloating, diarrhoea and constipation. Other IBS symptoms include nausea, low energy, flatulence and backache. All in all, it’s not a fun experience for those who suffer with the condition.


How to reduce IBS symptoms

There are several ways of managing your IBS symptoms to prevent flare ups and feel as comfortable as possible.

Make smart food substitutes

Certain foods can trigger symptoms more than others. These foods are different from person to person, but there are some common culprits; including dairy, gluten and caffeine. Here’s a list of food groups to avoid and how to replace them in your diet

Insoluble fibre: Foods that contain insoluble fibre could worsen diarrhoea symptoms. So, you should avoid eating too many grains, root vegetables, legumes and fruits.

Dairy: Dairy is a pesky food group for lots of people, not just those with IBS. Because of this, there’s lots of great diary-free alternatives in most supermarkets. Try oat or nut milk instead of cow’s milk (cashew milk is particularly yummy).

Gluten: Gluten has received a lot of bad press in recent years, and there’s a reason why. Gluten intolerance is common, especially amongst those with IBS. Try gluten-free alternatives for wheat-based products such as bread, pasta and cereal.

Beans and legumes: Though these foods have dietary benefits, they can exacerbate IBS symptoms. Avoid these foods if they trigger discomfort.

Caffeine: Ditch the morning tea or coffee and replace it with a cup of warm lemon water for that morning boost.

Chocolate: Chocolate is a common trigger for IBS symptoms. If you’re a chocoholic, you may have more luck with vegan chocolate alternatives.

Garlic and onions: These foods can cause painful gas and cramping. Try flavouring foods with herbs to keep flavour.

Broccoli and cauliflower: These foods can be difficult to digest, which brings on difficult symptoms. Make sure you get enough veggies by eating other more digestible foods such as lettuce, cucumber, potatoes and eggplant.

Keep a food diary

The best way to work out what triggers your IBS symptoms is to keep a food diary with exactly what you ate and how you felt afterwards. To get the full benefits from this exercise, you should note when you don’t have any symptoms, too. This will help you work out which foods are ‘safe’.

If you’ve experienced symptoms after eating a meal with several ingredients, such as spaghetti Bolognese, try eating the ingredients in isolation to work out where the issue is.

Find ways to relax

Stress can worsen IBS symptoms. Try and find a way to truly relax each day and see it if eases your symptoms. Some helpful strategies include walking, listening to music or guided meditations or cuddling a pet.

Get enough exercise

Exercise is key in leading a healthy lifestyle. For those with long-term health conditions, such as IBS, this can be even more important. The NHS recommends being active for at least 30 minutes a day, but the more you can do, the better. Being active could include light activity such as walking or swimming, or more intense activity such as resistance training.

Medication for IBS

There are certain medications approved for people with IBS. These all aim to relieve symptoms by easing digestion and bowel movement. If you’re unable to manage IBS with lifestyle changes alone, speak to your GP. They may recommend other helpful changes or explore medication options.

If you already have regular medication for IBS and would like to receive it in organised pouches, check out our homepage.

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