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~Exercise and Other SIMPLE STEPS to Ease IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)


 "I always get so bloated and gassy after eating." 

"I am afraid to go out to eat anywhere because I never know how my tummy is going to react" 


"I avoid eating out because I may have to make an embarrassing run to the bathroom" 


" I like cheese and bread but it sure doesn't like me!" 


These are common complaints of people who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). This is a condition that causes tummy discomfort, bloating, and a combination of constipation alternating with diarrhea. April is IBS awareness month and this article will go over some basic information about this condition and some simple steps you can take to combat it.  

Most people with IBS complain of abdominal pain and significant bloating, especially after eating certain foods.  Foods that commonly cause issues are wheat/gluten found in breads and pastas, and the lactose found in milk products. Stress can also be a significant factor in having symptoms.  

Diagnosis can be made by your physician based on your symptoms.  Tests may be done to see if you react to gluten or lactose. They may also need to rule out other conditions by doing a colonoscopy. Once diagnosed, there are medications that can help to slow down or speed up bowel movements as needed.  

There are also a lot of lifestyle changes that can help.  The gut and bowel are greatly affected by stress.   Common causes may be major (divorce, job loss, death in the family) or more minor (late for work, finances, daily hassles).  The gut-brain connection causes changes in the hormones that impact IBS symptoms. Relaxation techniques such as diaphragmatic breathing can do a lot to help calm the nervous system and gut.  There are also special manual therapy and massage techniques that can help calm the belly. 


Reactions to food can be helped by medication and by avoiding those foods that cause issues.  See this article for ways to help determine if certain foods are a part of your problem. There are also some herbal helpers such as peppermint tea that can help soothe an upset belly. 


Physical therapy and exercise can also help IBS symptoms as researchers from Sweden have found in a study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology. In the study, participants with IBS increased their activity to three to five times a weeks for sessions of 20 to 30 minutes each of moderate to vigorous activity. This included simple activities such as walking or bike riding.  In three months they reported an average 51 point decrease in symptom relief including abdominal pain and overall quality of life.  They had improvement in constipation, cramping, bloating and diarrhea.  Another benefit was that only 8 % of the exercise group had any worsening of symptoms compared to nearly 25% of the group that did not exercise during this time period.  


Physical Therapy can help ease IBS by working with the patient to teach relaxation and breathing techniques, stress management techniques, appropriate exercise, work with pelvic floor issues, and abdominal massage to calm the gut and nervous system. 

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