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Exercise and IBS: What's the Connection?

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a disorder which causes the bowels or the gut to be oversensitive. This increase in sensitivity causes a variety of uncomfortable symptoms, which includes excessive gas, stomach cramps and pains, bloating of the abdomen, constipation, and diarrhea. Obviously, these symptoms do not exactly make for the ideal life.


If you have been diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), you will know how difficult it is to treat. Doctors can be dismissive of IBS symptoms such as diarrhea, constipation and bloating, and when treatment is offered it may only help for a short while before the distressing symptoms return.


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 Home Treatment: If constipation is your main symptom Eat more fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. Add fibre rich food to your diet, but do this slowly so that you do not develop severe cramps Add unprocessed wheat bran to your diet. Start with 15g per day then gradually increase to 60g Try a product that contains a bulk forming agent such as Citrucel, FiberCon, or Metamucil. Start with 15g a day and drink extra water to prevent bloating Use laxatives only if your doctor recomends them. Get active. Increase your physical activity. If diarrhea is your main symptom Try the dietary suggestions for relieving constipation. Fibre rich foods and wheat bran can help reduce diarrhea Avoid foods that make diarrhea worse. Try eliminating one food at a time then add it back into your diet and see if symptoms develop. Many people find the following foods or ingredients make it worse: alcohol caffeine nicotine beans broccoli cabbage apples spicy foods foods high in acid such as citrus fruits fatty foods like bacon, sausage, butter, or oil, dairy products sorbital olestra starchy foods such as bread, rice or potatoes MSG If diarrhea persists a non prescription medication such as lopeamide found in Imodium may help. Check with your doctor if you are using lopeamide more than twice a month. To reduce stress keep a log of the events in your life that seem to trigger your symptoms then try to correct the underlying issues get regular and vigorous exercise When To Call Your Doctor:

Soluble versus insoluble fiber Some nutritionists believe that IBS sufferers' intestines react differently to soluble and insoluble fiber, and this has been Stu's experience: 'After trying all kinds of drugs and healthy eating, my pains were still there. I found by accident that it wasn't so much what I ate but whether I ate it on a full stomach or not. My failsafe is pasta on an empty stomach, I get no reaction - it is soluble fibre that settles the colon apparently. I quickly searched on the internet for recipes high in soluble fibre and I have improved. Most significantly though I am on no medication and this puts me in control of the IBS, not the other way around. I think this is important as stress certainly can trigger the symptoms off. I don't avoid insoluble fibre as it is essential for the body, but I recommend that you eat it on a full stomach.'

Aside from changes in diet, one of the most important things an IBS sufferer can do is to get some regular exercise. Exercise is vital to the IBS sufferer for two specific reasons. First, exercise makes your body stronger. Exercise strengthens the immune system, making it less likely that other illnesses or disorders will occur.

One symptom of bowel dysfunction is constipation. Constipation is the irregular or the incomplete emptying of the bowel. In these days of diet and nutritional awareness, most people would probably increase their fibre intake to remedy a sluggish bowel. Most people are aware that wholemeal bread contains more fibre than white bread. This type of fibre is called insoluble fibre. Whilst reducing the effects of constipation, it is thought that insoluble fibre may irritate the intestinal lining. With this in mind, it may be worth balancing your consumption of bread with eating grains e.g. Porridge oats, which are classified as soluble fibre.

Abdominal bloating, pain, and gas Mucus in the stool Feeling as if a bowel movement hasn't been completed Irregular bowel habits with constipation, diarrhea, or both The cause of IBS is unknown. Symptoms are thought to be related to abnormal muscle contractions in the intestines. However, when tests are done, they find no changes, such as inflammation or tumors, in the physical structure of the intestine.

A change in diet is often necessary for IBS sufferers. By eating more fiber-rich foods such as apples, peaches, cabbage, and broccoli, an IBS sufferer can reduce the impact of both constipation and diarrhea. Food items such as carrots, peas, whole-wheat bread, and pineapples are good choices as well. On the other hand, alcohol and caffeine-rich beverages should be avoided.

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Prevention: There is no way to prevent IBS. However symptoms often worsen or improve because of changes in your diet, your stress level, your medications, the amount of exercise you get, and for other reasons. Identify the things that trigger your symptoms. This can help you avoid or minimize attacks.

Jacob Mabille writes for Free Health Articles where you can find more health tips and related articles. You may republish this article only if you retain resource box and active hyperlinks.

If you have not yet been diagnosed with IBS, try to rule out other causes of stomach problems such as eating a new food, nervousness, or stomach flu. Try home treatment for 1 to 2 weeks. If there is no improvement of if your symptoms worsen, make an appointment with your doctor.

Irritable bowel syndrome also called IBS is one of the most common disorders of the digestive tract. Symptoms of IBS often increase with stress or after eating and include

Looking at your diet Laura describes how a close examination of her diet helped her IBS: 'I was placed on every kind of medication, and sometimes they worked in the short term, sometimes they didn't work at all. The doctor finally suggested trying to alter my diet in cycles, and we discovered that eating meat was my problem. I became a vegetarian and no longer have constant problems. Sometimes I even go years without any pain at all. It's worth all the effort you put into it when you finally feel better.'

All the self-help tips in this article have come from IBS sufferers who have found a way to control their irritable bowels. Before trying any form of self-help, please make sure that you have your doctor's approval, and do check that anything you try will not interfere with any medication you are taking.

Another approach to preventing constipation is to drink more water. The figures say that we ought to drink about 8 glasses. This equates to a minimum of 2 litres, if you not doing any exercise. If you are on an exercise programme then you will need to increase your intake of water to more than 2 litres. Notice that this is an intake of water rather than fluids. So caffeine and alcohol intake has to be monitored as they are both diuretics i.e. they force water out of the body.

If you suffer from constipation rather than diarrhea, you could try magnesium supplements instead, as these can have a slight laxative effect. Digestive enzymes and probiotics

IBS can persist for many years. An episode may be more then severe than the one before it, but the disorder itself does not worsen over time or lead to any serious diseases such as cancer. Symptoms tend to get better over time.

If you eat food with a high water content e.g. fruit and vegetables then this will add to your daily water intake as will all foods to some degree. There seems to be a popular school of thought of not to drink water with your meal as it may hamper the digestion process. So you could either drink water before your meal or after your meal. Take care not to overdo the water consumption, spread it out over the day. Drinking too much water in a short space of time is not good for the body; remember you also need to replace salts as well during the day.

People who exercise regularly report a feeling of well-being after their sessions. What happens is this: the brain releases endorphins. Endorphins are natural painkillers and antidepressants, so anyone in physical or mental pain will benefit from their release. Exercise isn't only good for you; it makes you feel good as well!

There are supplements that can be taken to restore bowel movement to a more regular cycle. Ispaghula or Psyllium Husks are bulking agents that surround the stool making them softer and more able to pass through the intestine. Ispaghula or Psyllium Husk are both available in powder form. Psyllium Husk is more likely to be available without any artificial sweeteners whereas in my experience I've only ever taken Ispaghula Husk with Aspartame. Psyllium Husk in particular, because it is not sweet, is not the nicest tasting substance.

 
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Sufferers often find that they have to deal with the symptoms themselves, through self-help methods and supplements, rather than by using conventional medicines. However, this does not mean that there is no hope of improvement. By sharing their experiences, sufferers can learn a lot about what really helps to ease IBS.

Kim, who also suffers from bad diarrhea, says: 'I tried taking digestive enzymes with acidophilus and found significant relief within three days. I am not afraid to eat now, but find that I still cannot eat very much refined sugar or high fibre vegetables. I have also added a cup or two per day of peppermint and chamomile tea. When I do have an episode it occurs late in the day and by the next morning I am feeling back to normal.'

Your doctor may prescribe medications for you to take in addition to doing home treatment. There are no tests that can diagnose IBS but your doctor may recommend testing to rule out other possible causes of your symptoms. The amount of testing your doctor will do depends on your age, the pattern, and severity of your symptoms, and your response to initial treatment.

Fiber, water and yoga Pam, who struggles with constipation, has developed a combination of things which work for her: 'I drink Metamucil (psyllium fibre) every day and try to relax, pray or meditate, even do a little yoga. The more I make myself relax and take time to de-stress the better I can manage my problem. I know time for yourself is very hard to come by sometimes but I have to if I'm going to manage this. I try to drink at least three bottles of water a day. This is also hard sometimes but I have to take care of me the best I can. I also take a mild anti-depressant. This has helped a bunch in my stress department and in turn has helped my IBS.'

If you have been diagnosed with IBS and your symptoms get worse and begin to disrupt your usual activities or does not respond to home treatments If you are becoming increasingly fatigued If you are symptoms frequently wake you up at night If your pain gets worse with movement or coughing If you have abdominal pain and fever If you have abdominal pain that does not get better when you pass a stool If you are loosing weight and you don't know why If your appetite has decreased If there is blood in your stool





About the author:
Sophie Lee has had IBS for 14 years. She runs the IBS Tales
website at http://www.ibstales.com where you can read hundreds
of stories and tips from IBS sufferers.

Calcium tablets Linda, who suffers from severe diarrhea, says: 'What has helped me for more than two years is calcium carbonate, an over-the-counter supplement. I take three tablets a day, one at each meal. The most success has come from using any formula of calcium supplement that is like Caltrate 600 Plus with vitamin D and minerals. The only side effect is at the beginning of taking the calcium you may have some gas or indigestion, but this usually goes away after taking a regular dose for a few days.'

Stress and IBS Daniel believes that his symptoms are related to his emotions and stress: 'I thought that when I was stuck on the toilet, experiencing the most severe cramps, thinking I was about to pass out from the pain, feeling like I was about to throw up, I was the only one. I'm still trying to work it out but I believe it has a lot to do with my psychological state. I say this because although I don't get too stressed out at any one moment, I do have general worries about money and life. I tend to find when I'm not worrying about these things I don't get the pain as much, if at all. It's easier said than done of course, I can't just stop worrying about money or my future, but being aware of these things seems to help - being optimistic and knowing that everything is only temporary. I have been taking Colpermin (peppermint capsules) as a preventative which often helps and for a while I took painkillers which I think helped.'

One thing to point out is to avoid becoming dependent on laxatives. They may offer short term relief from constipation, but the theory is that in the longer term you're encouraging your bowel to become lazy. I was talking to my Medical Doctor this week about laxatives and she said that the over the counter medicines can be aggressive on the digestive whereas some of the prescription laxatives may be milder. As ever what affects one person in one way may not affect another in the same way.

A final word Lastly, please do make sure that you have been officially diagnosed with IBS and had your symptoms fully investigated before trying any self-help methods. As Joe found out, bowel symptoms can be due something other than IBS: 'I was diagnosed with IBS, but I went to get a second opinion. They did an ultrasound followed by a barium follow-through which showed major inflammation and blockage of my small intestine. The final diagnosis is Crohn's disease. It's a pity they didn't catch it before I was seriously ill, instead of fobbing me off with excuses of 'It's IBS, there's no cure so live with it!''

Second, exercise is a good way to relieve stress. Many doctors believe that IBS has psychological origins. When a mind is under unusual amounts of stress, it is more prone to mental problems. Mental problems, in turn, lead to physical problems. The symptoms of IBS often begin when a person is exposed to too much stress. Stress has not been proven to cause IBS; but it certainly makes it worse. Because of this, anyone with the syndrome should do his utmost to reduce his stress levels. Exercising, of course, is one of the finest ways to accomplish this.

Flaxseed Watching your diet is sometimes not enough to completely control the symptoms, and natural or herbal supplements can help, as Marion discovered: 'After about six months of a horrendously restrictive diet (ultra low-fat vegan with no raw veggies or fruit except banana) and a lot of Metamucil, I managed to get it sort of under control. But if I deviated from the diet, the chronic diarrhea would come back. Someone I met told me that she had helped her IBS by taking a tablespoon of freshly ground flaxseed with a glass of water or juice every morning. I thought it was another crackpot cure, but eventually I decided to try it. She had told me that pre-ground flaxseed didn't work because flax seed starts to oxidize as soon as you grind it and that whole flax seeds are no good either, because they cannot be digested properly. After years of IBS, in about two weeks it just went away. I cannot believe that I now have perfectly normal, regular bowel movements.'

Unfortunately however, a large portion of IBS sufferers find that their condition cannot be fully cured. The medical profession has been unable to pinpoint exactly the causes of the syndrome. Thus, a cure has not been developed. In the absence of such a cure, however, the best thing and IBS sufferer can do is to get the best medical help available, as well as make relevant lifestyle changes. Lifestyle changes may not be able to make IBS go away completely, but they will make the symptoms easier to cope with.

Mina also found that dietary change helped control her symptoms, alongside traditional medication: 'I've made a number of changes to my diet. I've eliminated milk and mostly any dairy, fried foods, sugar for the most part, pop, alcohol, potato chips, spicy food, rice, pasta and bread. Most recently I'm eliminating flour. But my best friend for the last couple of years has been Imodium Quick Dissolve tablets. I don't ever leave home without them. I just have to make sure I don't overdo it. If I ever become immune to the wonder drug I am gonna be a real mess!'

If your bowel symptoms persist, you must see your medical doctor. Do not self diagnose as your pain may be a sign something more dangerous.


 
 
     
 
 





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