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How to Cope with IBS-Related Pain

Friday 26 March 2021

Table of Contents

I. Symptoms of IBS

II. Knowing Your Triggers

III. Stress Management

IV. Eating Right

V. Heat Treatment

VI. Physical Activity

Symptoms of IBS 

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is an intestinal disorder characterized by abnormal muscular contractions in both the small and large intestines. IBS is a functional disorder, which means the bowel is not structurally abnormal, but the function of the bowels is affected. If you have IBS, your doctor will likely prescribe Xifaxan (rifaximin)Linzess (linaclotide), or Amitiza (lubiprostone) to relieve symptoms. IBS will often cause more than one symptom. Common symptoms of IBS include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Constipation
  • Bloating
  • Gas
  • Diarrhea [1]

The cause of IBS is unknown, and no cure is currently available. Treatment plans for IBS often focus on strategies to reduce the severity and frequency of symptoms. If you experience any of the above symptoms persistently, you should see your doctor. Read on for ways to manage and cope with IBS.

Knowing Your Triggers

IBS is more manageable when you understand the factors that trigger an attack. Many people with IBS find it helpful to keep a journal to keep track of triggers and symptoms. Try jotting down the time of day, the activity you were doing, and the foods you were eating each time you experience discomfort from stomach pain, diarrhea, or any other IBS symptom. Recording information like this can help you and your doctor determine the changes you need to avoid IBS flare-ups. [2]

a woman meditating on a grassy hill

Stress Management

Stress can trigger and worsen IBS symptoms, so managing stress is important for avoiding pain. Yoga is an excellent activity that can lower stress, improve quality of life, and reduce the severity of symptoms. Studies show that if you participate in yoga classes three days a week, you can make significant improvements in your IBS symptoms. Researchers have noted that better posture and breath control may be why yoga is good for IBS. [1]

Meditation can lower stress and reduce symptoms as well. Meditation is a broad term used to describe many relaxation techniques. Being mindful and taking 15 to 20 minutes each day to practice a meditation routine has been shown to alleviate IBS-related anxiety issues. Many people start by following online meditation instructions, or you can try attending a local meditation class.

A good technique to start trying is the “box-breathing” technique. To try this, close your eyes and imagine a square in front of you. Picture a dot moving from the top left corner to the top right as you breathe in. Hold your breath as the dot moves vertically down to the bottom right corner, then breathe out as it makes its way to the bottom left. Finally, hold your breath as the dot returns to its starting corner, repeating for 10 minutes or until you feel at peace. [1]

Eating Right

Certain foods are known triggers for many IBS patients. FODMAPs refers to a group of carbohydrates that include fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols. These carbs are poorly absorbed by the intestines and can contribute to IBS symptoms by increasing intestinal bacteria, gas, bloating, and watery stools. [3] A low-FODMAPs diet will typically avoid certain grains, vegetables, and dairy products. However, these carbohydrates are commonly found in many foods, so you may need help from a dietician to come up with an effective low-FODMAPs diet.

a spoonful of yogurt

Dietary fiber is great for relieving IBS symptoms, particularly constipation. Whole-grain bread, beans, fruits, and vegetables are good sources of dietary fiber. However, be careful about fiber-related bloating. If dietary fiber worsens other symptoms, ask your doctor for ways to relieve constipation more effectively. You may be prescribed probiotics as an alternative. Probiotics are good bacteria that can restore some balance in the gut. [3]

Heat Treatment

Applying heat to the abdomen can offer relief when IBS attacks occur. Heat can stimulate blood flow and reduce spasms by relaxing the muscles in the colon. Electric heating pads are available on the market, but a hot water bottle on a towel can work just as effectively. Just be sure to always use a towel between your skin and the heat source to prevent getting burned. [3]

Physical Activity

Being physically active is a great way to reduce the frequency and severity of IBS symptoms. Research shows that participating in 20 to 30 minutes of exercise three to five times a week can improve stool problems, abdominal pain, and overall health. Studies have also shown that regular physical activity can prevent IBS symptoms from worsening over time. [4]

a tennis racket and tennis balls

Irritable bowel syndrome can be very uncomfortable and get in the way of office work, family life, and personal activities. The good news is that medications like Xifaxan (rifaximin)Linzess (linaclotide), and Amitiza (lubiprostone) can help relieve symptoms and manage this disorder. Talk to your doctor today to learn how you can incorporate these coping tips into your treatment plan.

The content in this article is intended for informational purposes only. This website does not provide medical advice. In all circumstances, you should always seek the advice of your physician and/or other qualified health professionals(s) for drug, medical condition, or treatment advice. The content provided on this website is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.