8 Ways to Relieve IBS Symptoms Naturally

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) affects 20 percent of Americans; if you are one of them, read on.

Adapted by Taylor Shea from 21-Day Tummy (Reader's Digest Association Books), Kitchen Cabinet Cures (Reader's Digest Association Books), and
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    Track your symptoms

    The most common causes of noninfectious chronic diarrhea are food intolerances, and IBS is often triggered by certain foods. Log your food intake to help identify triggers. Common triggers to look for are dairy, wheat, beef, and soy sensitivities. Also write down days when you feel particularly stressed, as anxiety can also be a trigger for IBS. Knowing what is most likely to cause a flare up can help you reduce your symptoms in the future.

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    Learn which are hard-to-digest foods for you and eliminate them from your diet

    A 2009 study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association showed that for one-quarter of IBS sufferers, their symptoms were "caused or exacerbated" by eating "fermentable, poorly absorbed carbohydrates, including fructose, fructans (present in wheat and onions), sorbitol, and other sugar alcohols. Sugar alcohols, often found in low-carb or sugar-free foods, are hard for your body to absorb and can cause bloating, cramping, and diarrhea. Watch out for diet drinks, sugar-free candy and gum, and artificial sweeteners, and eliminate all trigger foods that make your symptoms worse.

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    Change how often you eat

    Overeating is very hard on your digestive system, and is likely to kick your IBS symptoms into high gear. Instead of consuming a couple gut-busting meals a day, try to eat small, frequent meals through out the day. Your body will have an easier time digesting these portions, and you may notice that your symptoms are greatly reduced.

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    Try peppermint

    Many studies have been conducted on peppermint oil and its ability to ease symptoms of IBS. Researchers at the Tehran University of Medical Sciences gave 90 people with IBS a placebo or specially coated, delayed-release peppermint oil capsule three times a day for eight weeks. At the end of the study, 14 people who took the peppermint oil reported that they were free of pain or discomfort. In a separate Taiwanese study, IBS patients given peppermint-oil capsules 15 to 30 minutes before meals experienced significantly less bloating, stomach rumbling, and gas. Abdominal pain was reduced or disappeared entirely in some cases. To ease your own symptoms, try sipping peppermint tea or adding a few drops of peppermint oil to a glass of water.

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    Add turmeric to your diet

    Turmeric could reduce abnormal muscle contractions and inflammation for those suffering from IBS. To take advantage of its benefits, try taking 300 to 400 milligrams three times a day.

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    Ask your doctor about probiotics

    If taken regularly, probiotics can help promote growth of healthy bacteria and overcome bad bugs that can cause gas, bloating and other symptoms. A 2013 study published in Gastroenterology showed that taking probiotics reversed the negative effects of stress on gut flora, easing IBS symptoms. Plain yogurt is an excellent source of probiotics, but if you're sensitive to dairy stick to probiotic supplements.

    Avoid stimulants

    Caffeine, tobacco, and energy drinks can cause bowel irritation and diarrhea. Cut them from your diet if you suffer from IBS.

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    Manage your stress

    While stress does not cause IBS, it's been proven to aggravate symptoms for those who already have it. In a review of the literature, researchers at the UCLA School of Medicine found ample evidence for a link between stress and IBS, including that 40% of those who with IBS suffer from "increased anxiety" as well. A 2013 study published in the journal Gastroenterology showed that stress upsets the balance of gut flora in a way that contributes to IBS. Yoga, meditation, and breathing exercises may help manage stress and reduce IBS symptoms.

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