If you are one of those that suffer from IBS or other digestive complaints, finding some relief from your symptoms can be the difference between having a day full of pain and discomfort and being able to feel relatively ‘normal’.
In my last article I delved into some of the causes of your IBS symptoms, if you haven’t read that one pop back and have a read, it just might contain that missing ah-huh piece you are after. In this article I want to expand on those causes and give you some information on finding some relief from your IBS symptoms.
Now I am a little hesitant to start where I started in the last article – in our heads – as I am worried I may just loose you. So lets start bottoms up.
A Thriving Gut
First up we need to make sure we have great gut function and a nicely balanced microbiome. This may or may not call for a much deep exploration in your personal case. If this is true for you, the best way to tackle it is with a natural health practitioner that has some experience with this area. For some great all round advice though start with vegetables. Lots and lots of vegetables in lots and lots of variety. You want to aim for at least 50% of your plate being from plants. Then add in a variety of sources of protein throughout the week with some good sources of fats. Establishing a healthy microbiome and gut function allows food to move through effieciently, preventing any food hanging around allowing it to ferment and create gas, wind and pain giving you relief from these IBS symptoms.
Down the inflammation
Taking down some of the inflammation is also very beneficial. Adding some yummy spices like turmeric and ginger to your meals or in your drinks will help reduce this inflammation. If you do have an inflamed stomach ginger may be too strong to start with – go slowly. Relieving the pain associated with IBS can be helped through reducing the inflammation. Some yummy bone broth, glutamine and/or slippery elm bark really does help soothe the lining throughout the digestive tract and help everything move down better.
Moving the food down
Speaking of helping everything move down better, stimulating peristalsis – that pump like action that helps food move out of our stomachs – will prevent food from sitting too long and beginning to ferment. This will provide relief from your IBS particularly the bloating, gas and wind. Both ginger and turmeric help here (superfoods much…!) As well as slippery elm, radish and lots of green leafy vegetables.
Green, Green + More Green
Our green leafy vegetables help in a couple of other areas too. They are classified as bitter foods and help lower the pH level in our stomachs – this is a good thing! If you would like to understand this better head to this article I wrote on why you want a fiery stomach. Green leafy vegetables also contain magnesium. Magnesium is often used up a lot in times of stress. It is needed to turn off a lot of the switches that are turned on when we are stressed. It is needed for peristalsis and also to help us relax and sleep.
In addition to our bitter greens, citrus fruits, particularly lemon, raw vegetables and apple cider vinegar (ACV) can all help lower the pH of our stomachs. Having ACV or lemons in a little water 5 to 10 mins before food will help lower the stomach pH and stimulate your digestive enzymes.
Get the brain involved
Digestion does start in our brains. It starts the moment we start to smell our food. We start salivating and this signals to the rest of our digestion that food is coming. How often though do you rush eating, shoveling food into your mouth without stopping to appreciate what is coming? I’m certainly guilty of this. Not as much anymore but when my digestive complaints were at their worse. For as many meals as possible eat in a relaxed environment, slowly, putting your fork down, chewing your food properly. If you are eating 3 meals a day this is 21 times a week, 84 times a month, you have to change the way you digest your food and provide some relief from your IBS symptoms.
Exercise the vagal nerve
Ok now lets really tackle the head part. The vagus nerve to be exact. This is the direct path of communication from our brain to our digestive system and vice versa. We need this to be working optimally. The nerve sits in our Parasympathic Nervous System – our rest and digest state. If we have periods of chronic stress we drop into this rest and digest state more infrequently and the vagal nerve becomes weak as we don’t use. We can stimulate the vagual nerve through some simple exercises. As the vagal nerve also makes our throat work deep, intense humming and gargling (like til your eyes are watering) for 5-10 mins or deep belly laughs or loud in the car type singing can make all the difference. Think about it like weights for you vagal nerve. Can you see why I didn’t begin with this one…? But if you need some relief from your IBS symptoms I really would add this into your arsenal.
Boost your happiness – well the happy hormone…
In the article on causes of IBS symptoms I spoke of a deficiency in serotonin as a cause for pain. Now to make serotonin our body needs 5HTP which is an amino acid that is derived from tryptophan. Tryptophan is found in nuts, seeds, tempah, cheese, red meat, chicken, turkey, fish, oats, beans, lentils, and eggs. It also needs our B vitamins, magnesium and vitamin C. By boosting up your levels of B vitamins, magnesium and vitamin C, ensuring adequate intake of protein and reducing stress, your body will begin to produce serotonin reducing some pain and helping improve your mood.
THIS IS PARAMOUNT. And I’m not sure why I’ve put it last. I think most of us kind of think, I don’t have time to partake in the stress reducing exercises. It can also be hard to hold up a mirror to our lives to see that we have in fact created an environment that has lead to us having these digestive problems. It’s much easier to take a supplement than to change our way of being in the world – again speaking from personal experience.
It is with the personal experience though that I can say it is a critical and absolute necessary part of healing. So get honest with where the sources of stress are in your life. Address these areas where possible. And baby steps are better than no steps.
Spend time deep breathing. Research out of Harvard University has shown a 40% reduction of the impact of stress on our bodies by just taking 10 deep belly breaths every hour we are awake. Social connection and connection with nature is also extremely important. Get together with friends and family, eat, laugh, converse. Take a walk in nature. No music. Listen, feel, absorb what is around you. Take your shoes off and stand on the grass or get your hands in the soil and do some gardening. This will not only help with stress reduction getting out in nature helps our microbiome, circling back around to the first place we began to find relief from our IBS symptoms.
So lets recap
- Lots of vegetables in lots of colours. Make sure your plate is 50% vegetables.
- Reduce inflammation with turmeric, ginger, slippery elm and bone broth
- Stimulate peristalsis with green leafy vegetables, turmeric, ginger, radish and slippery elm
- Lower stomach pH with green leafy vegetables, raw vegetables ACV and lemon juice
- Eat in a relaxed environment, slowly, putting your fork down, chewing your food properly
- Work that vagus nerve with gargling, humming, laughing and singing
- Give your serotonin a boost with trytophan, B vitamins, magnesium and vitamin C
- Reduce stress – get honest with yourself, deep breath, connect with family, friends and nature