Managing IBS

Managing IBS

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a condition that affects more of us than you might think. Even with a range of uncomfortable (and often disabling) symptoms like bloating, cramps, abdominal pain, gas, diarrhoea, constipation, headaches, nausea and fatigue, many IBS sufferers go their whole lives without a diagnosis.

IBS used to be considered a psychosomatic disorder – imagine having a condition with symptoms so severe that you can’t leave the house, and being told it’s all in your head! Thankfully these days it is recognised as an actual condition, affecting the gastro-intestinal (GI) tract.


Although no pathological or anatomical causes have been discovered, we know that certain things can trigger the unpleasant symptoms. These include emotional factors or stress, food sensitivities, drugs and even hormones.

Studies have revealed that imbalances in beneficial bacteria (acidophilus and bifidus), undigested food and the presence of some parasites can also contribute to IBS.

Diets that include known bowel irritants such as coffee and alcohol, and are low in fibre, but high in sugar and fats may also trigger IBS as well as leaky gut syndrome.

While the cause is still unclear, there are a few things that are certain:
  • It is very common, affecting 10 - 20% of the population and is more common in women than men.
  • Diagnosis of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is often based on a pattern of symptoms over a long period of time.
  • Symptoms usually start in sufferers during their 20s or 30s, but can begin at any age.
  • It is often related to stressful life events.
  • Currently there are no drugs that cure IBS, but thankfully there are many natural health alternatives that can help alleviate symptoms and with the right professional advice have you on the road to recovery. 

6 Ways to Help Manage IBS:

1. Stress Less
Adding wind-down time into your routine is essential for reducing stress levels. Find what works for you, whether that means taking a walk, soaking in a bubble bath or reading a good book. It’s important to identify where the stress is stemming from and find a way to deal with it. Just taking some time out can help put the cause of your stress into perspective, otherwise talking to someone professional like a counsellor may also be helpful. Whatever works for you, do it; bottling it up will only make it worse.



2.Get Active
An increase in exercise has been shown to be beneficial for IBS sufferers. Exercise relieves stress, which can dramatically reduce symptoms and manage the triggers associated with IBS. Regular cardiovascular training (walking, running, swimming) is not only good for the body but the mind and spirit too. Aim for 4 - 6 times a week to notice a real improvement.


3.Know Your Food Sensitivities
Food sensitivities contribute to IBS. Common offenders include wheat and dairy but other possible irritants could be corn, coffee, tea and citrus fruits. Get tested for IgG food allergies or consider the elimination of Fermentable Oligo-Di-Monosaccharides and Polyols (FODMAP) foods. These are different classes of carbohydrate foods, which are poorly digested by some people, causing gas, bloating and cramping. Cutting these out of your diet can be life changing.

These are a few examples of FODMAP foods:

  • Fructose (honey, high fructose corn syrup and some fruits such as apples)
  • Lactose (dairy)
  • Fructans (wheat, onion, garlic, inulin)
  • Galactans (beans, lentils, legumes)
  • Polyols (sweeteners containing sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol, maltitol, and some stone fruits, including apricots, peaches and nectarines)


4.Chew Your Food
Most of us don’t chew our food properly before swallowing but IBS sufferers have particular trouble digesting many foods. Digestive enzymes help our body to do this. Chewing every mouthful thoroughly (at least 20 times) and taking an enzyme supplement with every meal will help to prevent the fermentation of food that causes gas.


5.Get the Right Supplements
Aloe Vera juice is incredibly healing and helps to soothe the digestive tract. It also improves digestion and encourages the assimilation of nutrients.


Acidophilus and Bifidus are beneficial bacteria that help to keep the digestive system healthy. Gut imbalances can lead to IBS and it’s this friendly bacteria that are often destroyed when we take medication or eat unhealthy foods.

Herbal Teas including ginger, chamomile, peppermint and fennel all help to calm the digestive tract, and relieve bloating, gas and cramping.


Fibre is one of the main supplements recommended for IBS because it works for both constipation and diarrhoea. Fibre helps to reduce intestinal toxicity, pathogenic bacteria and yeast overgrowth. It also helps to improve colon structure and tone. Psyllium seed and flaxseed fibre are both good sources that are well tolerated by most people. Slippery Elm powder can be very soothing too.

6.Seek Professional Advice
Treating the symptoms are essential but addressing your body’s unique set of triggers is even more important. There are many natural solutions when it comes to digestive problems, so seeking help from someone with knowledge and experience in this area can take the guess-work out of your road to recovery.

Not all products recommended may be available in South Africa at this time.

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Not all products recommended may be available in South Africa at this time