If you have recently begun experiencing prolonged periods of cramping, bloating or abdominal pain while passing a bowel movement, then you may be living with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Other symptoms of the chronic condition include gas, diarrhea, constipation, and changes in the frequency and appearance of bowel movements. There is no known treatment for IBS.

If you suffer from IBS, then you are not alone. It is estimated that approximately one in eight Americans are living with IBS, even if fewer than half of them are officially diagnosed with the intestinal disorder.

The wide prevalence of IBS is unfortunate, yet it’s also the reason why people are often so easily able to adjust to living with the condition – we have had plenty of opportunities to understand just how we can control symptoms by managing diet and other lifestyle choices. Here are seven ways you can help mitigate the symptoms of your IBS so you can live more freely and comfortably!

1. Consult a Doctor If You Are Experiencing Severe Symptoms

It is important that you never assume you have IBS without first receiving a diagnosis from a doctor. According to the Mayo Clinic, several symptoms commonly associated with IBS could indicate a much more serious condition, including colon cancer. These serious symptoms include:

Unexplained vomiting
Difficulty swallowing
Nocturnal diarrhea
Rapid weight loss
Rectal bleeding
Iron deficiency

Once your doctor confirms that you do indeed have IBS, they may prescribe certain medications such as Lotronex, Viberzi or Xifaxan, as well as immediate lifestyle changes you can adopt to mitigate your unique symptoms. It is recommended that you never adopt lifestyle changes which conflict with your doctor’s advice.

2. Avoid Foods Which Commonly Trigger Symptoms

Many types of foods are known to prompt the onset of IBS symptoms. Different people have different triggers, thus making it impossible to create a definitive list of foods to avoid when you have IBS. That said, many foods are far likelier to trigger gastric distress than others, such as:

Foods that are high in insoluble fiber, including whole wheat flour, wheat bran, potatoes, beans, nuts, cauliflower and green beans
Foods that contain gluten, including those made with wheat, barley, rye (beer commonly contains gluten, although gluten-free alternatives are available)
Foods that contain dairy fat, including ice cream, cheese and yogurt
Fried foods (as Hall of Famer Satchel Paige once so eloquently put it: “Avoid fried meats which angry up the blood.”)
Beverages which contain caffeine including coffee, tea, energy drinks and many sodas
Processed foods including frozen entrées, potato chips, breakfast cereals and fast food
Artificial sweeteners including Equal, NutraSweet, Sweet’N Low and Splenda
Chocolate and alcohol, sadly

3. Eat Foods That Are High in Soluble Fiber

While insoluble fiber is known to exacerbate IBS symptoms, foods which contain more easily digested soluble fiber may actually alleviate them. These include avocados, blueberries, bananas, brussels sprouts, carrots, kiwis, oranges, eggplant, chickpeas and lentils. But listen to your body! If a food that is rich in soluble fiber triggers your IBS symptoms, then your body certainly knows best.

4. Drink Plenty of Water

In addition to preventing dehydration induced by diarrhea, increased water intake may be associated with an overall reduction in IBS symptoms. To that end, beverages which actually dehydrate you such as coffee, tea, alcohol and soda are best avoided by people who are living with IBS. Ask any medical professional – water is king!

5. Enjoy Regular Exercise

Add “relief from IBS” to exercise’s nearly infinitely long list of potential health benefits. According to one recent study, just 24 weeks of low-to-moderate intensity aerobic exercise training can significantly reduce the symptoms of IBS, partially because it improves the ratio of anti-inflammatory proteins in the blood.

You don’t have to become a triathlete to mitigate your IBS with exercise. Physical activities as gentle as yoga, tai chi, swimming, walking and cycling are sufficient to yield noticeable improvements in your overall health.

6. Get Enough Sleep

The exact interplay between sleep and IBS is not well-understood. Still, half of people living with IBS also struggle with insomnia, and those who do sleep poorly also report more severe symptoms the following day. While your IBS symptoms may make it difficult to sleep the whole night through, avoiding sleep disruption whenever possible may have a noticeable improvement on your symptoms.

7. Seek Chiropractic Care

While many people assume chiropractic care is only suitable for treating musculoskeletal disorders, chiropractic can also be effective for treating organ-specific disorders such as IBS. This is because the nervous system has a profound impact on the digestive system, which it controls alongside the endocrine system.

Chiropractic also treats the root cause of a condition rather than attempting to merely mask its symptoms with medications, which can produce better health outcomes in patients. Best of all, just one chiropractic treatment session may significantly reduce the symptoms of IBS!

If you would like to learn more about how chiropractic care can help you live a normal life while you’re living with IBS, then we welcome you to contact Fargo Spine in Fargo, North Dakota today. Our broad range of chiropractic techniques and modalities will help you achieve your best state of health, no matter your underlying conditions.