To ease symptoms of IBS naturally such as abdominal pain, constipation, and bloating requires a few lifestyle changes that could tremendously improve your health and wellbeing. Here are the ones I swear by.
I still remember the night I was kept awake with an inflated stomach, with back pains so severe that I was struggling to stand up straight for more than 5 minutes, only venturing out of bed for unsuccessful bathroom trips I came back from more frustrated than ever. No matter what I did I simply could not get rid of my uncomfortable and unflattering bloating. That was 8 years ago. I did not know back then how to ease the symptoms of IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) naturally.
In my particular case, my body did not respond well to the medications I was prescribed to ease my constipation, diarrhea, and release the gas in my stomach.
This led me to understand that in order to sustainably reclaim my health and wellbeing, I had to dig deeper by being willing and committed to making some lifestyle changes consistently. And, ever since I went through that simple yet effective self-care journey, I have managed for the past 8 years to alleviate the symptoms of IBS naturally with no recourse to medication.
Whilst these will never replace in any shape or form effective medical treatment based on individual circumstances, here are the few self-care habits I have so far adopted to firmly kiss goodbye to the severe symptoms of IBS that were once wreaking havoc on my health.
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1. Reduce Anxiety and Stress
The first step I took to ease symptoms of IBS naturally was to take time to identify my life stressors and to make the commitment to minimise their impact on my daily life the best I could. I wanted to address the root causes of the chronic disease.
My action was motivated by the fact that I knew, based on several clinical studies, that acute or chronic psychological stress in early life or adulthood is an important contributing factor to the development of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and the aggravation of IBS symptoms.
To do this properly, I started journaling every day to have a better understanding of how I was using my time, energy and resources, what I ate during the day, whom I was interacting with, the events I was experiencing, and how all of these impacted my body and my mind.
Thanks to daily journaling, I noticed a clear link between my worsening IBS flare-ups such as abdominal pain, constipation and gas and the overwhelming life events I was going through that negatively affected my immune system and increased my stress and anxiety levels.
Setting healthy boundaries, letting go of people whose season in my life was complete, feeding my mind every morning with an uplifting message, and making the daily commitment to have a positive day regardless of my personal circumstances became my saving grace.
2. Make Some Diet Changes
Daily journaling, setting healthy boundaries, doing a bit of relationship decluttering, and listening to positive messages daily although life-changing, were not enough. To ease symptoms of IBS naturally, I had to make some diet changes including:
- Avoiding inflammatory foods: through daily journaling I was able to identify that I was highly sensitive to foods containing gluten (wheat, barley and rye), lactose, fructose, fructans, and foods that are hard to digest amongst others. Clinically, these are known as FODMAPs – fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols. They are found in certain grains, vegetables such as brussels sprouts and cabbage, fruits and dairy products. By making the conscious decision to remove dairy or in some cases to only eat a very small amount of fibre rich foods (e.g. broccoli) occasionally, as I keep experimenting with new types of food, I experienced a significant reduction in gas and constipation symptoms.
- Eating at regular times: I make sure not to skip meals, and I try to eat at about the same time every day to help regulate my bowel function. I eat small portions of food slowly to ensure I can digest them properly throughout the day.
3. Drink Plenty of Fluids
Beyond drinking my usual 2-3 litres of water each day, the game-changer for me to ease IBS symptoms naturally occurred when I introduced 2 glasses (500 ml) of my all-time favourite detox cucumber juice to my daily breakfast. The three-ingredient juice recipe is found here.
To this day I can confirm that this has been the best and most cost effective dietary change I have made. Every day I am in awe of that fact that a simple cucumber juice combining a little bit of pineapple, ginger and fresh cucumber I religiously drink in the morning significantly helps cleanse and strengthen my immune system, leaving me more energised with a glowing skin.
Additionally, twice a day I enjoy small cups of Chinese green tea that further help boost my energy level, cleanse and strengthen my immune system, and soothe any stomach discomfort I may experience. Double Dragon Organic Green Tea is the tastiest, most effective and affordable green tea I have so far enjoyed. The green tea high quality is well above some high end tea brands I have collected that are currently decorating the content of my kitchen cabinets.
4. Exercise Regularly
Regular low to moderate intensity exercise for me is and it has always been my holy grail to healthy living together with healthy eating. When I exercise regularly, I feel happier, I have a higher energy level, better clarity of thoughts and actions, much stronger resilience, and stress and anxiety are kept at bay.
I recently returned to my 3 to 4 times a week exercise routine a few months ago after a 7 month-hiatus, and what a fabulous time I am having right now combining indoor and outdoor exercise! I deliberately opt to exercise outdoors twice a week to boost my vitamin D level as my way to ease symptoms of IBS naturally, since work wise I spend a lot of time indoors.
More recently, I found out that, in 2018 clinical researchers from the University of Sheffield in England, discovered through observational studies and randomised controlled trials (RCTs), that a substantial proportion of IBS patients around the world were vitamin D deficient.
Whether it rains or freezing cold outside, I do my best to stick to my weekly fitness routine which frankly is worth the investment. Through a mixture of outdoor walking/light jogging and indoor strength training, with a focus on relaxing and building my core muscles, I am proud to say that I have annihilated abdominal pain and back pain. There is no more curling up in bed paralysed with excruciating pain, stuffing myself with painkillers just to be able to barely function throughout the day!
5. Schedule Regular Tummy and Back Massage
Tummy and back massage for up to 2 minutes each day during the time I moisturise my skin is a very easy and excellent way to quickly get rid of any residual bloating I may experience during the day.
Since I have sensitive skin, what I do when I moisturise is to apply on my stomach and my back a little bit of organic shea butter and the AllergyCertified Create Your Own Organic Massage Oil from Neal’s Yard Remedies which is a blend almond, wheatgerm and sunflower oils. I then use the palms of my hand to gently massage my stomach in right and left circular motions. Then I increase the massage intensity with my hand fists that I move in the same directions and subsequently up and down my stomach and back areas. I feel so relaxed and pain free afterward.
6. Practise Daily Meditation
5 to 10-minute a day as part of either my morning or night time routine is enough to keep me centered on the present moment.
Practising daily meditation helps me to process negative emotions, study better ways to navigate stressful events, and build up the mental skills and the spiritual resilience to manage stress and life challenges from a place of patience and compassion.
7. Get Enough Sleep
I cannot emphasise enough how good sleep hygiene is fundamental to having a successful day as far as I am concerned. It enables me to be calmer, more patient and more productive as I navigate various types of situations throughout the day without fearing any symptoms of IBS attack.
I am a work in progress in this space. However, for me to be able to enjoy enough sleep the best I can. I turn off my phone by 9:30 pm most days. I have also invested in creating a calming home environment to help ease anxiety and foster a good night’s sleep by investing in soothing home wall colours, creating a home spa environment in my bedroom, investing in good quality bedding, and tucking all electronic gadgets out of sight. I have also deliberately chosen not to own a television to maintain peace and quietness in my living space.
The positive changes I have so far made did not happen overnight. I proceeded one step at a time. Sometimes, I move one step forward and two steps backward.
But, I still find a way to re-balance my diet and lifestyle in order to enjoy a life free from the very most debilitating symptoms of IBS. Consistency is key to adopting new self-care habits, and I am happy to keep doing my best to strengthen my immune system for a healthier and happier life, one day at a time.
Singh, P., Agnihotri, A., Pathak, M. K., Shirazi, A., Tiwari, R. P., Sreenivas, V., … Makharia, G. K. (2012, July). Psychiatric, somatic, and other functional gastrointestinal disorders in patients with irritable bowel syndrome at a tertiary care center. Journal of Neurogastroenterology and Motility, 18(3), 324-331
Lacy, B., Weiser, K., & De Lee, R. (2009). The Treatment of Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Therapeutic Advances in Gastroenterology, 2(4), 221-238
Mayo Clinic Staff. (2014, July 31). Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Claire E. Williams, Elizabeth A. Williams & Bernard M. Corfe (2018, January 25). Vitamin D status in irritable bowel syndrome and the impact of supplementation on symptoms: what do we know and what do we need to know?
Please be aware that the information above captures my personal journey on how I have successfully managed to ease symptoms of IBS naturally after years of struggle. I am not a nutritionist or a medical professional. Even if I were a health professional, I will still advise you to always seek professional medical advice based on your personal health circumstances before trying out any lifestyle changes.