Home Remedies For IBS

Home Remedies For IBS

Irritable Bowel Syndrome, also commonly known as IBS, can cause symptoms such as painful cramps, bloating, excessive gas, diarrhea, and even constipation. For some people, the impact of IBS on daily living can be extensive and can negatively affect quality of life. But there are things that you can do to treat IBS naturally. And since it’s a chronic condition, it’s a good idea to learn some methods for keeping it in check and managing the symptoms.

There is no cure for IBS, but knowing what your triggers are, and how to avoid them, can greatly reduce your symptoms. Read below for some ideas on how to manage your IBS symptoms without medication.

EXERCISE.

Working out can help keep your digestive system working properly. It’s also a great way to relieve stress and anxiety, two big contributors to IBS symptoms. Exercising can be as easy as taking a short walk around your neighborhood. The key here is consistency, so aim for a 30-minutes, 4-5 times per week.

DIET.

What you eat when you have IBS can make a huge difference. Many people find that certain foods will cause them more problems, so try to avoid these when you can:

  •          Dairy products
  •          Spicy Foods
  •          Citrus Fruits
  •          Sugar
  •          Caffeine (including chocolate)
  •          Alcohol
  •          Soda
  •          Fried Foods
  •          Beans
  •          Broccoli or cauliflower

WATCH HOW YOU EAT.

How you eat may be just as important as what you’re eating. Eating more slowly helps prevent you from swallowing too much air, which can cause excessive gas. And opting for smaller meals throughout your day can help you avoid overloading the digestive system, which can cause cramping and diarrhea.

MANAGING STRESS.

Stress can be a big contributor to IBS so learning effective ways to manage it can really help to alleviate symptoms. Exercise, as mentioned above can be a great stress reliever. You can also try practicing mindfulness, which has been shown to reduce anxiety and stress in many people. Talking with a friend or a counselor about stressful situations can also do wonders to help you calm your mind.

PROBIOTICS.

Probiotics are specific species and strains of bacteria that we eat which are thought to improve gut health. Its unknown exactly how these work, but by improving your “gut health”, you may also improve your IBS symptoms. Probiotics can be taken as supplements, and are also found in things like yogurt, kefir, kimchi, and Kombucha.

GO EASY ON THE LAXATIVES.

Many people turn towards OTC laxatives to manage their IBS symptoms, but be careful – improper use of these products can sometimes make things worse. Always talk with your doctor about how to integrate them into your treatment plan before trying them on your own.

The most important thing you can do is to pay attention to your body and how you’re feeling. Notice how certain foods affect you and try your best to avoid them. Recognize when you’re feeling stressed out and find ways to calm your mind down. With a bit of practice, you’ll be on your way to fewer IBS symptoms, and a better ability to manage them.

Practicing Mindfulness To Ease IBS Symptoms

Practicing Mindfulness To Ease IBS Symptoms

In today’s hectic and crazy world, it’s hard to even think about finding the time to just sit and practice mindfulness.  For many, it’s a hard concept to grasp, and as a practice, it can feel intimidating to start. But carving out even 5-10 minutes of each day for some quite time can do wonders for your stress and anxiety levels, and may even help with things like IBS symptoms, simply by calming your mind and being objectively aware of how you’re feeling.

BENEFITS OF MINDFULNESS

Mindfulness has been practiced for thousands of years and is thought to have originated in Eastern cultures and religions.   Turns out that the ancient practitioners were on to something. Recent research has shown that mindfulness has many benefits, including the following: 

  • Reduced rumination

  • Reduced stress and decreased anxiety

  • Increased working memory capacity

  • Better ability to focus

  • Less emotional reactivity

  • Enhanced self-insight

  • Increased immune functioning

  • Improvements in well-being

WHAT TO EXPECT

Before you start practicing mindfulness, you need to know a bit about what to expect.  The main goal of mindfulness is to be able to pay attention to the present moment you’re in, without judgment. This sounds pretty easy, but once you get started you’ll see it’s much harder than it appears.

Your mind has a mind of it’s own and tends to drift toward all sorts of things except what’s happening to you right at this moment – that big work project coming up, the cupcakes you promised to make for your 3rd grader’s class this week, an upsetting conversation you had with a friend or family member, your growing to-do list, and on and on.

But not to fear – your wandering mind is completely normal and it just takes some practice pulling your thoughts back to the present moment once you realize they’ve drifted off. Once you’re able to this in practice, you’ll find you’re better able to do it in real life too, making you more present in your day-to-day activities.

HOW TO START

  1. Find a comfortable place to practice. This doesn’t have to be a picturesque seat in the middle of a garden or waterfall. It can be a comfortable chair in your kitchen, a quite spot outside, or even your desk chair in your office. The main thing is to find a place that feels good to you. Be sure that your body posture is comfortable too, and that you’re in a position that you can remain in for the length of your practice.

  2. Start with 5-10 minutes. This feels like a small amount of time, but is a great place to start when you’re trying to fit this practice into your day. And when you’re just getting started, trust us when we say that even 5-10 minutes may feel like a long time to just sit still. As you continue with your practice, you can begin to extend your time.

  3. Concentrate on your breathing. No need to count your breaths or hold it for a specific amount of time. Just feel your breath as you inhale and exhale slowly and regularly.

  4. If you feel your mind start to wander (and you will), just acknowledge it and then pull your concentration back to your breath.

  5. Don’t judge yourself or your feelings. This is hard work, and takes practice to be able to continually be present and not focus on the things that are happening in our lives.

  6. Practice makes perfect. Or at least it makes you better. With continued practice of mindfulness meditation, you’ll become much better at staying focused throughout and that will bleed into other areas of your life as well. We know it’s hard to sit still for a set time each day, but stay with it. The benefits are well worth it.

Patient Perspective: Ellen's Story

Patient Perspective - Ellen's Story of Living With Incontinence

After the birth of my 2nd child, I began experiencing urinary incontinence.  I started leaking a bit here and there, and it only got worse as I got older. I assumed it was just a part of aging and that there was nothing I could do. And while the episodes were embarrassing, I was able to control and hide them pretty well by wearing protection and always keeping a close eye on the toilet. 
 
However, when my youngest was 15 years old, I had my first real bowel accident, and life as I knew it officially changed.  I began having more and more episodes, and eventually didn’t even want to leave the house because I was so terrified of having an accident.  I stopped seeing friends. I ordered groceries and most things I needed online.  I refused to go on dates with my husband.  There is something that feels just a little bit worse about having a bowel accident vs. having a bladder accident – it’s messier, smellier, much more apparent, and just so humiliating that you never want others to know it is something you are going through.  
 
I lived like this for six years before finally realizing that I wasn’t controlling my ABL, it was controlling me.  I got up the nerve to speak with my doctor and was able to have a surgery that helped alleviate many of my issues. 
 
All of this could not have come soon enough – my first granddaughter was born a year ago and to think that I may have missed out on that moment or all the wonderful ones that have followed makes me cringe. My only regret is that I didn’t do something about it sooner.
 
Ellen T., Atlanta, GA

What I've Learned About IBS And How To Treat It.

IBS, Bowel Health, And How To Treat It

IBS, Bowel Health, And How To Treat It

I was fairly young when I first started having bowel trouble. A consistently nervous young woman, I was constantly in a state of worry – about school, boys, and friendships – pretty much the normal run of the mill high school concerns. My mother always said I had “nervous bowels”, and my family became accustomed to stopping frequently to use the restroom on trips, and always asking me if I had to go before leaving the house.  The pain I felt sometimes with bloating or cramping was attributed to my nerves.  And while my family was fairly sympathetic to my condition, I experienced a lot of eye-rolling growing up when my symptoms would strike (“We have to stop for Annette again?” my brother would say. “She just went!”) It was a normal occurrence that lasted into my college years, and then later as I started a family.  And while it was inconvenient and could definitely be painful at times – it wasn’t until after the birth of my first child that I thought about it as a “condition” that could actually be treated. 

IBS, or irritable bowel syndrome, is when you have an overly sensitive colon or large intestine.  This may result in the contents of your bowel moving too quickly, resulting in diarrhea, or too slowly, resulting in constipation. (Both of which I have experienced, although my symptoms tend to lie more in the former camp, causing me to constantly race to the bathroom for fear of an accident).  Symptoms also can include cramping or abdominal pain, bloating, gas, or mucus in the stool. The condition is more common than you may think. As many as 1 in 5 American adults have IBS, the majority of them being women. And, this is not an old persons disease either – IBS strikes young, commonly in ages younger than 45.

I was finally diagnosed at age 28 – a whopping 13 years after I started experiencing symptoms, and I wish I had thought to seek help earlier.  My doctor told me that there are many things that can contribute to IBS. Things like hormones, certain types of food, and stress (I guess my mother was right) may all impact IBS symptoms.  Since the cause is of IBS is not known, treatments usually focus on relieving symptoms so that you can live as normally as possible. 

Below is a list of treatments my doctor discussed with me.

Behavioral Changes: 

Diet.  Many foods can trigger IBS. And, while they might not be the same for everyone, there are some common triggers that have been identified:

  • Alcohol

  • Caffeine (including coffee, chocolate)

  • Dairy products

  • Sugar-free sweeteners

  • High-gas foods, such as beans, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, raw fruits or carbonated beverages)

  • Fatty foods

  • FODMAPs (types of carbohydrates that are found in certain grans, vegetables fruits and dairy products)

  • Gluten

One of the first things I did when starting treatment was to keep a bowel diary, which tracked the foods I ate and how they effected me. This was a huge help in learning my food triggers.  I also learned to eat more frequent, smaller meals, which helped ease my symptoms. (Although those who experience more constipation may see improvement by eating larger amounts of high-fiber foods.)

Stress Management. This was a huge one for me.  It turns out, your brain controls your bowels, so if you’re a hand wringer like me, it may end up making you run to the bathroom more often than you’d like.  Learning ways to control stress was a game changer and I saw a huge improvement with these steps:

  • Meditation – Just taking the time to quite your mind can do wonders in helping you manage stress on a regular basis.

  • Physical Exercise – Regular exercise is a great de-stressor and, if you have constipation, can help keep things moving in that department too. I walk regularly and practice yoga 3 times per week to keep my stress at bay.

  • Deep Breathing Exercises – This is a great trick to practice if you feel yourself starting to get worked up. Practice counting to 10, while breathing in and out slowly until you start feeling relaxed.

  • Counseling – Sometimes you need someone to talk to help you work through your emotions. You may find comfort in talking with a friend or family member, or even a professional counselor, who can help you learn how to deal better with stress.

  • Massage – This one likely doesn’t need much explanation - who doesn’t love a good massage?

Drink Plenty Of Water. Drinking enough water just helps your body function better. And for people with IBS, it will ensure that everything moves more smoothly and minimize pain. This is especially true with those who suffer from constipation. 

Medications 

There are several different medications used to treat symptoms of IBS. Whether you suffer from constipation, or diarrhea, OTCs and prescriptions are available. Antibiotics are also sometimes prescribed for those patients whose symptoms are caused by an overgrowth of bacteria in the intestines. And if you suffer from anxiety or depression, like me, some antidepressants and anti-anxiety agents can actually improve your IBS symptoms too. Talk with your doctor about your symptoms and work with him or her to find a solution that’s best for you.

Other treatment options 

Acupuncture. Despite a lack of data on acupuncture and IBS, many patients turn to this method of treatment for pain and bloating. Acupuncture, which is usually performed by a licensed acupuncturist, targets specific points in the body to help channel energy flow properly.

Probiotics.  As research continues to emerge around the importance of gut bacteria and your overall health, probiotics may become a more common treatment option.  Consuming them can increase the “good” bacteria that live in your intestines and may help ease your symptoms. 

Hypnosis.  Hypnotherapy has been shown to improve symptoms by helping the patient to relax. Patients practicing hypnotherapy have reported improved quality of life, reduced abdominal pain and constipation, and reduced bloating. However, most of the time hypnotherapy is dependent upon a therapist, and is usually not covered by insurance plans, making it a costly form of therapy.

I’m 37 now and have had my IBS pretty much under control for the last several years. Looking back, I can’t believe I lived with it as “normal” for so long. If you suffer from this condition, there is simply no reason to not get it treated. 

Need help finding a doctor?  Use the NAFC Specialist Locator.

About the Author:  Annette Jennings lives in Oklahoma with her husband, 2 children, 2 dogs, and 1 cat. She's happy to be speaking up about her condition and hopes it will inspire more people to do so. 

Ask The Expert: What Should Be The First Line Of Defense In The Treatment For Fecal Incontinence

first line of defense in the treatment Of Fecal Incontinence

Each month, we ask our expert panel to answer one of our reader's questions. To learn more about the NAFC Expert Panel, and how to submit your own question, see below.

Question:  What should be the first line of defense in the treatment for Fecal Incontinence?

Answer:  My advice would always be to first talk with your doctor.  This may be an uncomfortable conversation to have, but it’s one worth having, since your doctor is best equipped to diagnose and treat the condition.  However, if you’re just not ready to take that step yet, there are a few things you can do.

How To Treat Fecal Incontinence

1. Keep a bowel diary. 

It may seem strange to track your bowel movements, but by tracking the time of your movements, what you were doing at the time, and what you eat during the day, you may be able to uncover some clues as to what is causing you to have frequent movements or accidents. Download a free bowel diary here.

2. Change up your diet. 

Certain foods can be irritating to your bowel and by keeping a healthy diet you may be able to lessen some of your symptoms.  Try eating foods rich in fiber, which can help create bulkier stools and make them easier to control. Drink plenty of water to avoid constipation (which, contrary to what you might think, can also cause ABL since loose stools can push their way past hardened ones causing leakage.)

3. Develop a routine. 

Take a look at your bowel diary and see if you notice a pattern to your bowel movements or accidents.  Try developing a voiding schedule to circumvent these episodes.

4. Exercise. 

Getting in a good workout is always a good idea, but it can be especially helpful in keeping constipation under control. Exercising helps to move food through the large intestine more quickly, which can prevent it from becoming hard and dry (and harder to pass.)  And keeping the pelvic floor in shape with regular exercise and kegel contractions can help control and reduce fecal incontinence.

If you don’t experience any improvement in your condition after making the above adjustments, it may be time to bite the bullet and speak with a doctor. Rest assured you won’t be the first one to share this type of problem with them and they will be able to point you in the direction of something that will work best for you.

Are you an expert in incontinence care? Would you like to join the NAFC expert panel? Contact us!

Over 10 Million Men Struggle With Bowel Leakage

Bowel Leakage Is Common In Men, Too.

While women make up the majority of individuals struggling with bladder concerns, there are millions of men dealing with accidental bowel leakage (ABL). The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease (NIDDK) defines bowel control problems as "the inability to hold a bowel movement until reaching a bathroom.”

Bowel leakage can include symptoms like: trouble holding a bowel movement, having solid or liquid stool leak when least expected or finding streaks of stool in underwear.

While age is a contributing factor, ABL has been reported to affect both men and women as early as 40. As a growing concern among the Baby Boomer generation, more studies and research are being conducted to see what can be done to better manage and reduce or treat ABL.

The causes of bowel leakage can vary. Some folks experience ABL as a result of diarrhea, constipation, or damage to muscles or nerves. No matter the reason, many individuals are encouraged to normalize stool consistency with increased fiber intake and strengthen the sphincter muscles with pelvic floor exercises.

With practice and patience in finding the right solution, ABL can be managed effectively so individuals can move on.

Read our bowel retraining guide to learn more about a transitional treatment options. how to regulate your system.

5 Preventative Steps For A Healthy Bladder

5 Preventative Steps For A Healthy Bladder

Think incontinence is an inevitable part of aging?  Think again.  There are lots of things that you can do to improve your bladder health that don’t involve a trip to the doctor, medications, or surgery. 

Here are 5 ways you can help keep your bladder in check.

Watch what you eat and drink. 

For those with incontinence, what we eat and drink can greatly affect our bladders.  Make sure you are making healthy choices and avoiding bladder irritants.  And to learn what your bladder triggers are, keep a bladder diary.

Keep a healthy weight. 

Extra weight can put pressure on your bladder.  Make sure that you get regular exercise and pay attention to what you are eating to ensure you are maintaining an optimal weight.

Kegels. 

You’ve heard it before, and it’s worth repeating.  Just as regular exercise can benefit other parts of the body, these little exercises for your pelvic floor can help to strengthen the muscles to promote better bladder control.  Follow these steps to know that you are doing them correctly.

Avoid constipation and trouble voiding. 

Having a full rectum can create pressure on the bladder.  Additionally, sitting on the toilet for too long or straining during a bowel movement can cause damage to your pelvic floor.  Take steps to avoid constipation (eat well and drink lots of water) and reexamine your voiding posture

Don’t smoke. 

We all know that smoking is bad for you, but did you know it can affect your continence too?  Nicotine and smoke are bladder irritants and can be triggers for incontinence, making it one more reason to quit.

Share with us!  Tell us how you keep your bladder healthy in the comments below!