Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is Britain’s most common digestive complaint, affecting nearly a fifth of the population. Despite the growing prevalence, the condition is extremely poorly managed: a recent survey of IBS sufferers revealed that over two thirds of sufferers have received no helpful advice from their GP regarding symptom relief and those affected try an average of 5 new products to relieve their symptoms each month. Despite this, over 50% are still left battling the embarrassing and debilitating symptoms long-term.
Registered Nutritional Therapist and Chair of BANT (British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy) Miguel Toribio-Mateas shares his tops tips to help reduce sufferers the pain of IBS safely and effectively:
It is thought that IBS sufferers experience increased sensitivity to stress and anxiety, making it important to try to reduce the amount of stress in your life. Regular exercise not only helps you to de-stress but also helps gas pass through the digestive tract more quickly, so you feel better faster. Mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques have also been found to reduce the severity of symptoms.
Watch what you drink
Caffeine and alcohol are gastric irritants and act as triggers in some individuals, so are best avoided. Carbonated drinks may also contribute to bloating or cramping. In contrast, drinking plenty of clear fluids (such as water and herbal teas) can help to ease digestion.
Try a ‘live’ probiotic
Studies have indicated that IBS patients experience a reduction in beneficial bacteria and higher concentration of pathogenic bacteria in the gut. Newly published research suggests that a unique ‘live’ liquid bacteria known as Symprove (www.symprove.com) can help re-address the balance, with study results demonstrating that all major IBS symptoms either improve or disappear completely in 60% of participants following 12 weeks of treatment; even in those for whom other probiotics and IBS treatments have failed.
Be mindful of thorough and calm chewing; eating on-the-run or bolting food at your desk can often lead to compromised digestion. Try putting your knife and fork down between bites and chewing with your mouth closed. This forces you to breathe through your nose, which relaxes and slows you down.
Give your digestive system a break
Large meals can place stress on the digestive system and trigger spasms in the gut. Some find it helpful to break them down into smaller, more frequent meals, whereas other IBS sufferers do better by leaving longer gaps between meals, and experience a reduction in symptoms by giving their system a break. However, regularity tends to help the digestive system to operate in a steady fashion, particularly when symptoms are severe.
Avoid trigger foods
Management plans for IBS are highly individual, but symptoms are often improved by alterations in food intake. Lactose (milk sugar), fructose (fruit sugar) and sorbitol (an artificial sweetener) are common triggers in IBS patients. In addition wheat, dairy, yeast, coffee, eggs, potatoes and onions can often cause problems.