You regularly feel bloated, maybe a little self-conscious, you experience pain and have irregular bowel movements.
If you’ve visited your GP, you may well have been diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), which tells us that an unidentified factor is causing your bowel to be, well, irritated. That’s all very well, but what do you do now and how do you stop the irritation? In short, find the root cause, and treat that. What’s causing your flare ups is totally unique to you. Yes, it might take time and effort to identify, but knowing what’s truly causing your system to scream may well prevent further visits to the GP, and will help improve your health. Great. But how?
Here are our top 7 tips to really help you work out what’s going on:
1. Be totally honest about what you are putting into your body. What did you eat or drink before a flare up? Identifying any culprit(s) will really help. It might be that you’re just overindulging in something that you can only tolerate small amounts of, but you may also do better by cutting that food or food group out altogether. Cutting a food group out is a big deal, so do so under guidance from a nutritionist.
2. Remove stress where you can and learn how to cope with others: breathing exercises, gentle exercise including Pilates, yoga and walking are all good ideas. We hold tension across our entire bodies, and our gut can be strongly affected by stress.
3. Move. Are you glued to your desk chair, only to drive home and then sit on the sofa? Make time to move. It’s not about beach bods, quads the size of small children or looking good. It’s about helping your mind and body: exercise, no matter how gentle, will improve gut health and will boost your mental health too. We are designed to move.
4. Consider medication that you are ingesting. We all know that antibiotics damage our gut microbiome, but did you know that the contraceptive pill can cause changes to our gut too? Many other types of medication do the same. Of course, this doesn’t mean you need to stop taking it. Just take extra steps to support your gut.
5. Support your gut with nutrients and supplements. Our guts are as unique as we are, so the supplements (including probiotics, prebiotics and other anti-inflammatory nutrients) that work for your best friend might not work for you. Consult a nutritionist or functional medicine practitioner for help – we can refer you to good ones if you’re stuck.
6. Look back through your past. Is this really the first instance of gut weakness? Did you have eczema as a child, or any other skin conditions? The chances are that unless this was a reaction to a topical agent, your eczema was also the result of a systemic imbalance. It's nothing to be scared of, but it’s interesting to piece it all together to work out exactly what’s going on. This information will help identify the root cause: is your IBS. really being caused by that piece of cheese alone, or do you have a longstanding gut weakness that is being exacerbated by current factors?
7. Try functional medicine, nutritional therapy, reflexology, acupuncture or osteopathy. No, we’re not tooting our own horns: these are all great therapies which really help to support imbalanced areas.