8 Habits That Can Make IBS Worse
Having IBS is not fun, especially if what worsens the symptoms is really unclear to you. IBS can often mean feeling cramped, nauseous, and bloated after you eat, as well as having some not so fun bowel-movements that feel rather difficult to control. And while it might indeed be hard to treat, there are habits that make IBS worse. Often times they are simple things you might not be considering when it comes to the health of your GI tract.
Dr. Len Lopez tells Bustle that while you figure out the habits that contribute to your IBS, slowing down, and sitting down as you eat, is where you should start. Giving yourself some space and intention around mealtime can be a real game-changer when it comes to symptoms.
"When you eat on the go, which many of us do in this fast paced world, we don’t allow our digestive system to produce the necessary digestive juices needed to breakdown your food," Dr. Lopez says.
Those important digestive juices are needed to begin the breakdown of your food into an absorbable form, so your body can utilize those nutrients, he says.
"When you don’t give your body a chance to produce those digestive juices," says Dr. Lopez, "your food begins to rot and putrefy in your digestive system, which is a huge contributing factor for IBS."
As best as you can, try to give yourself a little more time to enjoy your meals and digest. And take a look below to find out which other habits might be contributing to your IBS.
1. Having Food Allergies You Might Not Be Aware Of
Naturopathic doctor Michael D. Brown tells Bustle that there might be things you are eating that you aren't aware you are allergic or intolerant to, and this can be a cause of IBS for sure.
"The most common culprits are dairy, wheat, corn, and soy," says Dr. Brown. If you are suffering with IBS, going in for an allergy test is a great first step.
2. Being Super Stressed Out
Ah, stress. The culprit for everything, it seems.
"The GI tract is very much intertwined with the emotional state," says Dr. Brown. "A more calm mind equals a more calm and healthy GI tract."
Incorporating stress-reducing techniques such as meditation, measured breathing, and exercise can only help your digestion. But if you're feeling really overwhelmed, reach out for help from a mental health professional.
3. Drinking Lots of Caffeine
Put down that extra cuppa Java, my friend. Sad as that might seem, it could be what is causing, or at least further irritating, your bowels.
"Caffeine in coffee, tea, and power drinks can overstimulate the GI tract," Dr. Brown says. Take a break or cut back on caffeine to see if that has any impact on your digestive system.
4. Added Sugar And Sweeteners
This can be tough, but being aware of your intake of sugar and artificial sweeteners is important, Miranda Rogers, RDN, tells Bustle.
"Sugar is everywhere and we have to keep a watchful eye when it comes to added sugars," Rogers says. "Sugars are not well digested and therefore spark symptoms of IBS."
5. Drinking Sparkling Water
Yes, when the waiter offers sparkling or still, you might just want to stick with still if your IBS is acting up.
"The carbonation can exacerbate IBS symptoms such as pain, bloating and gas," says Rogers. "The intestines in people with IBS are more sensitive to pressure buildup."
6. Using Antibiotics
Bart Wolbers, researcher at Nature Builds Health, tells Bustle that antibiotics can kill the good bacteria in your gut. The end result can be an overgrowth of bad bacteria, which then feed the IBS.
"Of course, antibiotics are necessary to target a health problem sometimes," says Wolbers, but their side effects should also be taken into account. Taking probiotics, with the guidance of a health professional, can help to counteract the effects.
7. Too Much Or Not Enough Fiber In Your Diet
Especially if you're intolerant to certain fibers, such as gluten, removing that fiber can inhibit symptoms.
"In such instances these fibers irritate the gut," says Wolbers. "Temporarily removing foods that contain these fibers allows you to test whether you were affected in the first place."
On the other hand, adding more fiber or fiber supplements to your routine can also help with symptoms. This is a great thing to discuss with your healthcare provider.
8. Using Antacids
"You need stomach acid to break down food properly. And contrary to popular opinion, acid reflux is most often a sign of too little stomach acid, not too much," says Wolbers.
Using antacids often leads to too little stomach acid, and thus bad digestion, he says. When stomach acid isn't functioning well in breaking down food, the food ends up partially undigested in the small intestine.
"That small intestine should normally be mostly free of bacteria," he says. But if foods survive undigested in that part of the gut, bacterial overgrowth can take place there. And yes, IBS symptoms increase as a consequence.
While IBS isn't technically curable, there are so many ways to help alleviate and control the symptoms. Looking at your habits, and reaching out for some healthcare guidance, will have you on the road to a happy gut.