Between 25 to 45 million people in the United States suffer from a condition called irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a condition causing painful symptoms that disrupt their daily lives. This intestinal disorder can lead to bloating, gas, cramping, diarrhea, and constipation episodes. Unfortunately, 1 in 5 Americans suffer from chronic IBS, lasting for years or a lifetime.
Simple diet and lifestyle tweaks to manage constipation caused by irritable bowel syndrome
The root cause of IBS remains unknown, and there are a wide range of symptoms each person can experience. Several factors are believed to contribute to this chronic digestive condition. But one of the common complaints of individuals with IBS is constipation.
Experiencing constipation can cause discomfort and pain, affecting your overall quality of life. Fortunately, there are several natural methods for alleviating this condition.Taking a laxative is often the go-to for many individuals when feeling bloated and constipated. However, treatment guidelines advise that you should use them sparingly. According to the American College of Gastroenterology, laxatives are ineffective for IBS symptoms in individuals with constipation. That’s because using over-the-counter laxatives for a long time can cause dependency, requiring higher doses to produce stools. It can also reduce your colon’s ability to contract, worsening constipation.
If you are experiencing constipation related to IBS, here are four diet and lifestyle strategies you can try before resorting to a laxative. These strategies can help ease IBS-related constipation and may eliminate the need for a laxative.
1. Each day keep physically active
Regular daily exercise offers many benefits for our mental and physical health. Scientific studies have shown that moderate exercise can even alleviate symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), such as constipation. Exercise facilitates movement of the colon, which is highly beneficial in relieving constipation. The faster food moves through the large intestine, the less water your stool absorbs, making it easier to pass.
The most effective exercises range from yoga to walking that can significantly improve IBS symptoms. Adding in daily movement of at least 20 to 30 minutes, can help relieve constipation.
2. Add more foods that have soluble fiber
Fiber is recommended for people with IBS but not all fibers are created equal.
Soluble fiber, rather than insoluble fiber, is best for reducing IBS symptoms. Soluble fibers dissolve in water helping pull water into the stool, forming a gel-like substance that moves contents through the colon much faster.
Insoluble fiber means it does not dissolve in water, therefore it stays intact as it moves through your digestive system.
Best food sources of soluble fiber include beans, oats, citrus fruits, apples, barley, carrots, avocado, and Brussels sprouts. Eating these foods regularly help ensure that stools are soft and pass painlessly and quickly.
Remember that including foods with higher fiber content may increase gas and bloating. Always gradually add these foods to your diet to prevent these unpleasant symptoms.
Fiber supplements can also be used to add fiber to your diet. Psyllium (the main ingredient in the fiber supplement Metamucil), is a rich source of soluble fiber. To build up tolerance, start with a teaspoon daily, and then slowly increase to 20 to 30 grams of soluble fiber.
3. Have a cup of Peppermint Tea
Peppermint has been known as a natural remedy for various health issues, including digestive problems. There are numerous scientific studies supporting its effectiveness in treating IBS.
Peppermint tea has been found to reduce IBS symptoms such as diarrhea, bloating, and constipation. Menthol that is found in peppermint is what helps to relax smooth muscles in the colon, inhibiting constipation.
4. Stay Hydrated
Staying hydrated is crucial for everyone, but if you experience constipation due to IBS, monitoring your water intake becomes even more essential. Adequate hydration facilitates digestion by preventing your intestines from absorbing moisture from your stool.
Insufficient water intake can make your stool dry and hard, leading to aggravation or the onset of constipation.
Staying hydrated is important for your health. Ensure to drink lots of water throughout the day, especially before, during, and after exercising. Avoid overconsuming (more than 3 cups per day) too much caffeine or alcohol, which may lead to dehydration.
Adequate hydration that is maintained daily is crucial for overall health and bowel function, but it won’t provide a cure for constipation associated with IBS. Increasing stool moisture is important, but simply drinking more fluids alone will not relieve constipation. The best approach is to have a management strategy of using both dietary and lifestyle modifications, and if needed, medication or other therapies.
Dr. David Samadi is the Director of Men’s Health and Urologic Oncology at St. Francis Hospital in Long Island. He’s a renowned and highly successful board certified Urologic Oncologist Expert and Robotic Surgeon in New York City, regarded as one of the leading prostate surgeons in the U.S., with a vast expertise in prostate cancer treatment and Robotic-Assisted Laparoscopic Prostatectomy. Dr. Samadi is a medical contributor to NewsMax TV and is also the author of The Ultimate MANual, Dr. Samadi’s Guide to Men’s Health and Wellness, available online both on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Visit Dr. Samadi’s websites at robotic oncolo gy and prostate cancer 911.