First things first. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic functional gastrointestinal disorder characterized by a cluster of issues, including abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation (and sometimes both!), along bloating and mucus in the stool. Yeah. Sounds unpleasant. But here’s good news you can draw comfort from: medical experts believe, as has also been highlighted in numerous studies, that you can reduce the frequency and severity of those pesky IBS symptoms through various minimally invasive lifestyle changes (1, 2). Incorporate the following tips into your daily life, and you’d be able to get a better handle over your IBS symptoms (possibly even bidding farewell to them for good!) Read on to find out what they are.
#1: Get more sleep
Be honest. Are you clocking enough sleep – anywhere between 7 to 9 hours – nightly? If not, then you might have just stumbled upon one of the greatest contributing factors to your IBS symptoms. A 2014 study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine suggests that there appears to be an association between the IBS symptoms you experience in the morning and the quality of your sleep the night before (3). In other words: the worse your sleep quality the night before, the worse your symptoms will be. A more recent study (done in 2017) published in Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics supports this finding. The researchers found that participants with IBS woke up more frequently throughout the night and that this correlated with worse gastrointestinal distress, abdominal pain, and more days with IBS symptoms (4).
While scientists don’t fully understand the mechanism behind how sleep affects IBS, one thing’s clear: you’ll need to ensure that you’re getting enough sleep – regularly (5, 6, 7). That said, it’s worth acknowledging how challenging that can be for you, especially if you struggle with migraine attacks. Just so you know: people with IBS are 40 to 80% more likely to also suffer from migraines compared to people without IBS (8). As such, something that could help you keep the throbbing pain away and get a good night’s sleep is Dr. Danielle’s Migraine Assist.
#2: Cut back on alcohol and caffeine intake
Alcohol and caffeine: arguably the 2 most popular types of beverages all working adults need in their life. Unfortunately, if you're dealing with IBS, both caffeine and alcohol can exacerbate symptoms. Now, let's first talk about caffeine. As a stimulant, caffeine increases gut motility – or, in other words, the contraction of your muscles that propel contents in the gastrointestinal tract (9, 10). That means food moves through your digestive tract faster, which can then lead to diarrhea (since your body wouldn't have enough time to absorb your stool's water content). Not exactly something you’d want. Especially since you’re likely already dealing with diarrhea from your IBS.
What about alcohol? Well, it all lies in the fact that alcohol is a known digestive system irritant (11, 12, 13). Various studies also suggest that alcohol can decrease the absorption and movement of carbohydrates, like FODMAPs, in the digestive tract (14). This can then worsen IBS symptoms, including bloating, gas, and stomach pain. However, it’s worth noting that, as with everything else, the effects caffeine and alcohol can have on the gastrointestinal tract varies from person to person. That's why you should be mindful of how these 2 substances affect your IBS personally. If you notice a worsening in your symptoms after consumption, then, naturally, you'd want to cut down. But if not? Then there isn't a compelling reason to – unless your intake exceeds guidelines and becomes problematic.
By the way: Dr. Danielle’s Liver Assist (starring organic milk thistle) can help keep your liver healthy and in tip-top condition – super important if you drink alcohol regularly.
#3: Track patterns in your symptoms
Speaking of being mindful of your IBS symptoms … a critical thing to note is that each person's experience with IBS is different. That means that particular food that triggers you (e.g., chocolate) might not have the same effect on another individual also struggling with IBS. So, one thing you could do to pinpoint all the triggers unique to you would be to keep a detailed diary covering all possible factors – including food choices, how fast you eat, your caffeine and alcohol intake (as previously covered), medications you take, etc. The important thing for you to do is to look for patterns. For example, if you notice that you're always rushing to the toilet after a fatty meal, you'll have a hint that cutting down on your intake of fatty foods is likely one crucial factor in your management of IBS.
Of course, cutting down on your intake is only part of the equation. You can also enhance your body’s ability to digest the “dietary culprits” by incorporating Dr. Danielle’s Gut Assist Digestive Enzymes into your IBS-management toolbox.
A disclaimer on dietary interventions for IBS symptoms
If you've read thus far, you might be put off by the entire process. Sounds incredibly tedious and time-consuming, doesn't it? At this point, you might be tempted to go for a supposed "dietary shortcut" at managing your IBS symptoms: something called the low FODMAP diet (15). A little bit of background. FODMAP stands for "Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides And Polyols". You can think of them as fermentable short-chain carbohydrates prevalent in the diet. Because studies have shown strong links between FODMAPs and digestive symptoms like gas, bloating, stomach pain, diarrhea, and constipation, the idea is that cutting down on your FODMAP intake would help improve IBS symptoms (16, 17, 18).
While the evidence suggests that a low-FODMAP diet can improve IBS symptoms, the truth is that you shouldn’t attempt a low FODMAP diet by yourself (19, 20, 21). At its essence, the low-FODMAP diet is a restrictive one that carries a risk of nutritional inadequacy. Therefore, it should always be done under the guidance of a licensed dietitian who can guide you through the systematic reintroduction of foods. Bottom line? Unless you seek medical help, don't put yourself on an overly restrictive diet (e.g., low-FODMAP diet).
#4: Find ways to reduce stress levels
Wondering what stress has to do with IBS? Well, as it turns out, a lot. A 2021 study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, for instance, found that participants living with IBS who reported experiencing anxiety and stress were more likely to report more severe symptoms, cycle through more treatments, and say their symptoms negatively impacted their daily life that those who didn’t report psychological distress (22). As to why that is, you can trace it all back to the fact that stress increases the hormone cortisol, which then brings about numerous “downstream effects” on the gut – including a reduced intestinal blood flow, increased intestinal permeability, and an inflamed immune system.
Thus, keeping your stress under control can go a long way toward preventing or easing your IBS symptoms. Tension-busting activities you could try are exercising, meditating, spending time with loved ones, and practicing relaxation techniques like deep breathing (23). And if you're looking for something more geared toward "quick-relief", you can also consider taking stress-busting supplements. Science-backed, natural options include ashwagandha and Rhodiola Rosea (24, 25, 26, 27). Just so you know: these are the same potent, stress-relieving herbs found in Dr. Danielle’s Stress Lift.
#5: Support your gut health
Although scientists are still struggling to pinpoint the precise cause of IBS, recent research suggests that there may be 2 primary factors found right in your gut involved in IBS development in some people (28, 29). The first is an imbalance in the intestinal microbiota (i.e., gut microbiome). And the second is a dysfunctional intestinal barrier (i.e., "leaky gut") – which, when working properly, helps keep potentially harmful contents in the intestine while allowing nutrients to be absorbed into the bloodstream. This understanding is good news for you. It means you can now have 2 different strategies to keep your IBS symptoms at bay: 1) restore "healthy" microbiota balance in your gut, and 2) repair your intestinal barrier.
An easy way to achieve the first would be probiotics (i.e., live microorganisms that are considered “good” bacteria) supplementation – like with Dr. Danielle’s Probiotics. According to a 2014 meta-analysis conducted by The American College of Gastroenterology, probiotics can help improve overall symptoms, like bloating and flatulence, in people with IBS (30). Now, what about the second? How do you go about healing a leaky gut? Well, an easy way to do so is with Dr. Danielle’s Gut Assist, which contains aloe leaf extract to support the healing of epithelial tissue, particularly that of the gastrointestinal tract. Other things to keep your intestinal barrier healthy in your daily life would also include increasing your intake of high-fiber foods, reducing your intake of refined carbohydrates, and reducing your reliance on NSAIDs (31, 32, 33, 34).
You can still live life to the fullest with IBS
IBS is far from a pleasant experience – that’s for sure. But that doesn’t mean you should let the condition ruin your life. Making the lifestyle tweaks mentioned in this article can help you better manage your life with IBS. Oh, and don’t forget that there’s nothing shameful about asking for medical help whenever necessary! A qualified, trustworthy physician can help you find the right treatment plan.