When you begin a new day, you want to feel healthy and energized so that you can accomplish everything on your to-do list. You might swear by a morning cup of coffee to get you going, or insist on drinking lemon water to shake the sleep out of your eyes. But none of this really matter if your digestive system is causing you major discomfort. Abdominal pain, constipation, and diarrhea are all potential symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and they can make it difficult to focus on your day. But these morning habits that can prevent IBS can make it easier to get things done without worrying about your digestive problems, according to experts.
The causes of the disorder really depend on your individual body. "Stress and diet are the main factors that can cause and exacerbate IBS, but everybody is different," Dr. Roja Ramisetty, M.D., a gastroenterologist at Detroit Medical Center's Sinai-Grace Hospital, tells Bustle. IBS could be caused by anxiety or another psychological issue, she says, or a physical issue like a bacterial imbalance. "It’s difficult to determine what is really the cause, but more times than not it’s stress and diet," Dr. Ramisetty says.
Regardless of what is causing your IBS, here are a few tweaks you can make to your morning routine to help calm things down in your gut.
1. Repeat Positive Affirmations
Before doing anything else in your day, take a moment to sit in bed and take care of your mind. "Morning anxiety about IBS sometimes happens even before onset of symptom flares," Wendy Leung, a registered acupuncturist and IBS elimination coach, tells Bustle. "While we can't predict whether an IBS flareup will occur, we're often unable to stop thinking about it, perpetuating the anxiety cycle." By instead getting into a positive mindset, you can help prevent automatic negative thoughts from triggering a flareup.
2. Spend Some Time Meditating
While you're taking time to care for your mind, devote a few moments to meditation as well, Colleen Webb, MS, RDN, CLT, a clinical nutritionist and OMG! Nutrition advisory board member, tells Bustle. This doesn't have to take up a lot of time during your morning routine, so don't worry if you can only spare a few minutes to center yourself. "If you’re new to meditation, consider using an app to walk you through a 10 minute meditation exercise," she says. "Research links mindful meditation to improvements in IBS."
3. Schedule In Time To Poop
You might be tempted to wake up at the last possible moment in order to squeeze in as much time to snooze as possible, but this really isn't a great habit when it comes to managing IBS. "Give yourself time in the morning to sit on the toilet," Webb says. "We’re conditioned to go to the bathroom in the morning. Let nature take its course." Not giving yourself time to relax and poop can exacerbate a whole host of symptoms, like feelings of not being done pooping, trapped gas, abdominal discomfort, and more unsatisfying trips to the bathroom throughout the day, Webb says.
4. Start Off With A Warm Drink
You might swear by an icy cold brew to start your day, but try sticking to a hot beverage in the morning to see if it reduces your IBS symptoms. "Have a cup of coffee (or a couple cups)," says Dr. Ramisetty. "This will help reduce any acid reflux. Even having a cup of hot water with a little bit of honey can help," she says. "Any kind of warm or hot drink can aid in stimulating the gut." If you really want to double up on the gut health help, go for a ginger tea, which has some major digestive benefits. Dr. Ramisetty says that coffee can often help with IBS, but it doesn't always lead to positive results, so listen to how your body specifically reacts to determine what's best for you.
5. Don't Take Supplements On An Empty Stomach
If you're in the habit of taking some nutritional supplements in the morning, one easy tweak to make it better for your gut health is to have them with your breakfast, rather than on an empty stomach, says Webb. "Nutrition supplements, such as multivitamins, can wreak havoc on an empty gut," she says.
6. Choose A Savory Breakfast
Speaking of breakfast, the first meal of the day can really affect your IBS. You might be used to starting things off with waffles and syrup, sweetened yogurt, or cereal with added sugar. But you're really better off opting for foods with very little sugar (or better yet, savory foods), says Webb. "Eating and drinking too much sugar worsens IBS symptoms, especially diarrhea, gas, bloating, and nausea," she says. Even fruit, which is definitely high in nutrients, can cause some problems for folks with IBS in high amounts, so try to swap out orange juice for another kind of breakfast drink.
7. Go For A Gentle Workout
If you're the kind of person who's motivated enough to leave your warm bed and head off to a high intensity workout first thing in the morning, that's awesome. But in terms of IBS, you might want to consider trying a workout that's a little bit gentler to start your day. "Mild to moderate exercise can improve symptoms of IBS, but high-impact exercise can worsen symptoms for some individuals," says Webb, "especially when performed soon after eating breakfast."
8. Try To Stick To A Routine
Whatever habits end up working for you and your gut health, do your best to stick to pretty much the same schedule every day, Dr. Keith Kantor, a nutritionist and CEO of the NAMED program, tells Bustle. "Establish a normal eating routine and meal times," he says. "This way your bowels will get used to going at specific times per day, and you will be less likely to have a flare up being on a schedule."
If you suspect you have IBS, talk to your doctor about the best ways to manage it for your own lifestyle. But something as small as swapping your breakfast chocolate muffin for an egg and cheese biscuit could make a big (and tasty) difference.