When something isn’t right in your gut, it indicates something isn’t right in your life. Identify what’s stressing you out, what you are doing wrong, and treat IBS holistically and naturally, instead of symptomatically.
Reports estimate that nearly 10 – 15% of the global population suffers from IBS. The embarrassment surrounding the disease and the taboos of talking about digestive problems make many individuals with IBS suffer in silence.
When left untreated, IBS disrupts social, work and personal life, causing patients to experience psychological effects like nervousness, loss of confidence, and even anxiety and depression. Here, we explore how to treat IBS holistically and get free from it, once and for all.
What is IBS?
IBS is the catch-all term for all chronic digestive problems. Abdominal pain and change in bowel habits are common symptoms of IBS. An individual with IBS may have diarrhoea and constipation (in mixed patterns) and anal fissure due to difficulty in passing stools.
The symptoms are worsened immediately after eating. Other symptoms include bloating, urgency (the need to use a restroom in a hurry), mucus discharge, gassiness, blood in stools, and other tummy troubles. Symptoms vary from one individual to another and may flare or diminish at times.
What causes IBS?
Disrupted Brain-Gut Interactions
Did you know that your gut and brain are intricately connected? For your digestive system to work without any troubles, it has to respond to signals from the brain. Disruptions in normal brain-gut interactions cause IBS.
Hectic lifestyles, improper nutrition, chronic anxiety high levels of stress and a loss of living in tune with nature’s cycles all take a toll on your gut. This makes your digestive system hyper-sensitive. Your digestive system instead of looking at food as an ally begins to consider food as an intruder (that has to be eliminated quickly from the system) leading to digestive troubles.
What’s the Cure for IBS?
You have to understand that it’s not possible to cure IBS without putting the rest of your system on track. Treating the symptoms is a superficial approach, and you are bound to get back the symptoms later on. IBS requires holistic lifestyle changes to get rid of the problems completely.
1. Be picky about what you put in your mouth
Digestion starts long before food reaches your stomach. You need to keep your gut healthy and clean by eating the right foods. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, smoking, sugary foods, refined foods, dairy, gluten, refined oil and processed foods all of which impede digestion.
Some people also find wheat difficult to digest due to its high gluten content. Avoid wheat products till your gut heals. Post that, try adding wheat a little and check that you are able to digest it well.
Avoid non-vegetarian foods as they are difficult to digest. Eat simple, easy-to-digest natural foods like – raw or steamed vegetables and fruits with a little bit of nuts, seeds and sprouts– these don’t overwork your digestive system. Avoid foods heavy on oil and spices as they heat up the stomach aggravating symptoms.
You can find more about whole-plant based natural foods here.
2. Ditch Dairy from your Life
One in three people with IBS are lactose intolerant, and they don’t even know it. The dairy for IBS is that dairy products – milk, cheese, yoghurt – are hard to digest. These products inflame and irritate the bowel more, causing aggravation of symptoms.
If you are worried about finding easy and simple alternatives to your favourite dairy products, check out our recipe, where we have dozens of alternative recipes for all your daily foods.
3. Monitor food combinations
Food combinations – what you eat along with what foods – determines how quickly and efficiently the foods you consume are digested. Wrong food combinations take a longer time to digest, causing gut bacteria to colonize your stomach’s inner lining, which leads to digestive disturbances. Find more about the right food combinations here.
4. Eat Right and Practice the Art of Mindful Eating
Limit the fluids you take with meals. Beverages and water consumed along with meals dilute the stomach acids, reducing the efficiency of digestion.
Avoid eating on the run, while in a hurry, having large meals, eating late at night, binge eating, emotional eating, etc. Eat only when you are hungry. Learn about circadian rhythms, and understand when your body is actually hungry, to eat right.
Chew thoroughly. Remember that digestion starts in the mouth and the saliva secreted helps to break down the food, speeding up digestion. Avoid eating while watching TV, browsing your mobile phones, etc. Instead, make sure to focus on what’s on your plate and how it impacts you. Eating is not just a physical process but a psychological process too.
5. Give a Break to your Digestive System
The word IBS itself suggests that your digestive system is irritable. You need to provide your digestive system rest to help it repair, heal, and get back on track. Practising intermittent fasting or sufficient gaps between meals is an efficient way to rest your internal systems, providing your body with the energy and time it needs for carrying out other functions apart from digestion.
6. Practice Yoga
Yoga helps to reduce stress and anxiety and keeps things moving in your system. Aim for poses that calm and relax you, instead of overly ambitious poses.
Suggested Yoga Sequence for Treating IBS
Half-seated spinal twist
Reclining abdominal twist
Happy baby pose
Complete with Savasana (Corpse Pose)
7. Tune Out
Sleep is a powerful natural doctor, and you need adequate sleep to ensure that your body is functioning at its maximum capacity. Sleep helps your system reset and restore. There are plenty of processes that happen in our body when we sleep – cleansing, detoxification, cellular repair, renewal and growth, replenishment of energy, and more. Here are nine ways to improve sleep naturally.
8. Finally, Get Close with Nature
Our bodies were designed to be one with nature. Sadly, our modern lifestyles alienate us from nature as far as possible. Just like plants need their sunshine, the human body needs sunshine, natural air, and plenty of outdoor time to be at its best. Try to make lifestyle changes to include nature time as part of your daily routine.
Short term measures
While you continue making lifestyle changes, a few short term measures can help you alleviate symptoms
Sitz bath – If you are suffering from painful passage of stools and having anal fissure, fill a plastic tub with warm water and sit in it for 15 minutes while closing your eyes and relaxing.
Abdominal wet pack – Wring a thick cotton towel in cold water and tie it around your abdomen i.e. from navel to abdomen. You can lie down for 20 minutes or go about your normal chores. Do it 3 times a day for few days to experience relief.
A word before you Begin
Initially, your body may find it difficult to digest high fibre foods, which may cause constipation and abdominal pain. Remember you are reversing years of damage and it will take some time for your digestion to get back to its natural efficacy.
Add freshly squeezed fresh fruit juices without any additives, coconut water and steamed vegetables to your diet to boost digestion. Once your body gains back its lost digestive power, you can add more natural and raw foods to your diet.
Living a Natural Lifestyle is the Key to Getting your Gut on Track.
Recipe Video: Irritable Bowel Infusion to Sort out Digestive Troubles
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Busting IBS Myths
Recipes for People with IBS
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