April is National IBS Awareness Month and I love talking about poop, so let’s get started! Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is often called a “trash can” diagnosis, or a diagnosis of exclusion. Basically, when you have been through a battery of tests and no one can see anything wrong with the structures of your digestive tract, IBS is a label that often gets used. Essentially, “Um...We don’t know exactly what’s going on, but your bowels sure do seem irritable. Let’s call it ‘Irritable Bowel Syndrome.’ There. Doesn’t it feel nice to label things?” Sheesh. There are so many things that contribute to the function (or dysfunction) of your digestion that it can be hard to pinpoint the culprit, but here are 5 things you can do at home to help things go more smoothly:
Stress is one of the most common triggers for digestive disorders. It is estimated that 90% of serotonin (a major neurotransmitter) is made in the gut. If this gets disrupted it can have a big impact on your digestion.
Try meditation, yoga, chatting with friends, journaling or acupuncture to relieve your stress.
Address Gut Dysbiosis
An imbalance in the microbes found in your intestines can have an ill effect on digestion as well. To help balance things out, avoid foods that can contribute to the overpopulation of the bad bugs - sugar, grains, alcohol and fried foods (basically the foods we tend to crave), and add in the good bugs by eating fermented foods or taking a good probiotic.
Eating too much can overload your digestive system and trigger symptoms such as gas, bloating, diarrhea and constipation.
Try eating mindfully, paying attention to hunger and satiety signals. Enjoy each bite so that you aren’t tempted to keep shoveling it in!
Caffeine is a stimulant that can activate bowel movements, causing loose stool and diarrhea. In the long term, it can also cause dehydration which can contribute to constipation. After a while, you can get stuck in a nasty cycle where you get dependant on caffeine just to go!
Try herbal teas or good plain water instead to keep hydrated and get that digestive tract moving properly.
Movement is very important in keeping all our organs functioning well, and can have the added benefit of reducing stress.
Go for a walk or a hike with friends, do a little yoga at home, or try something completely new to keep yourself interested in exercise. A little physical movement can do wonders for your, ahem, movements.
And, of course, here’s a bonus tip - we can always help you get that digestion back on track. There’s a good reason I have one patient that calls me “the poop whisperer” - acupuncture can really get things moving along!
As always, please feel free to reach out if you have any questions about how to improve your digestion.