What is IBS? Irritable bowel syndrome is a type of digestive disorder that’s characterized by a group of common symptoms, including changes in bowel movements and abdominal pain.
No tests can actually confirm whether or not someone has IBS, which is where tracking symptoms is important.
The good news is you can identify IBS symptoms and then treat them naturally through lifestyle changes and an IBS diet.
The most common IBS symptoms include:
Changes in normal bowel movements, including constipation and diarrhea, it’s also possible to have both.
Changes in the appearance of stools, including texture and color
Gas and burping
Abdominal pains, aches and cramps
Nausea, heartburn or acid reflux
Easily feeling full or loss of appetite
Although these aren’t “digestive issues,” the following symptoms are also often present in people with IBS:
Anxiety or depression (not only does stress contribute to IBS developing, but symptoms can then worsen stress, creating a vicious cycle that’s hard to break)
Trouble sleeping and fatigue
An unpleasant taste in the mouth
Muscle aches, especially in the lower back
Sexual problems, including reduced sexual desire
Body image issues
Frequent or urgent need to urinate
Causes of IBS Symptoms
The exact causes of IBS are different for every person, since many factors in someone’s life can affect digestion. One major factor that determines how the digestive system works is your stress levels and moods.
Common factors contributing to IBS include:
food sensitivities and allergies (dairy, gluten and other FODMAP foods)
chronic stress or even temporary high amounts of emotional or physical stress
having family members who also have IBS
changes in someone’s sleep routine and circadian rhythm
hormonal imbalances or changes (menstruation, menopause or pregnancy might bring on symptoms)
Natural Treatment for IBS
Each person has different reactions to different types of foods. But foods to try cutting out of your diet as part of an “elimination diet” for relieving IBS include:
Conventional, pasteurized dairy
Gluten (wheat, barley, rye)
Added sugar and refined flour
Caffeine and alcohol
Common allergens, including eggs, nuts, shellfish
Certain FODMAP grains, veggies and fruit (such as apples, stone fruit, avocado, onions, garlic and broccoli)
Higher levels of stress are linked to digestive troubles due to how stress raises inflammation and impacts hormone levels. Even stress from everyday situations, like work or family obligations, can impact digestion.
What can you do to lower stress? Exercise, meditation, spending time in nature and enjoying hobbies can all help as natural stress relievers.
Regular exercise (aerobics, lifting weights, team sports or yoga) help control stress and can improve digestive health.