Take care of your guts

The symptoms of IBS are uncomfortable, painful and often embarrassing. They can also dramatically affect quality of life – spiralling to feelings of depression, isolation and helplessness.

There are many common triggers for IBS including alcohol, caffeine, spicy foods, stress and poor diet in general. And at this time of year, with many of these culprits out in full force, it can leave IBS sufferers feeling miserable.

But it needn’t be all doom and gloom for your gut at this time of year – follow these top tips to support your digestive health and enjoy the season.

1. Boost your bacteria with probiotics

The gut contains over 100 trillion microorganisms! When numbers of the good bacteria fall, it can lead to stomach upsets, diarrhoea and bloating. Probiotics are live bacteria or yeast that help to restore the function of the gut and repair any damage in the gut lining. They can be taken as supplements, but are also found in foods like live natural yogurt and fermented foods like sauerkraut. Over the festive season, it’s a good idea to increase your intake of natural probiotics or consider taking a probiotic supplement – particularly if you’re prone to any digestive problems.

2. Steer clear of your triggers

Triggers for IBS are different for everyone but some of the common ones include rich creamy foods, caffeine, alcohol, spicy foods, eating too much fibre and stress. Keeping a food and symptoms diary is one of the best ways to get to know your triggers. Note down everything you eat and any digestive consequences. Start to recognise any patterns in food and drink intake. Something as simple as cutting back on spicy foods, or certain types of vegetable might be all it takes to relieve you of your discomfort.

3. Keep moving

Staying active, especially over the season of over-indulgence is one of the best ways to reduce gastric problems. But don’t overdo it – very high intensity exercise like running and aerobics can often worsen IBS symptoms. Instead choose moderate intensity exercise like walking, swimming, yoga or Pilates to help boost circulation whilst relaxing the muscles of the digestive system and reducing stress (often associated with IBS).

Written by Ruth Tongue
(MSc Nutrition)