August 07, 2017

It affects around one in five of us in the UK and can put a serious damper on daily life… here’s how to soothe symptoms the natural way.

THE SUPPLEMENTS

‘IBS (Irritable bowel syndrome) is not something you should self-diagnose but, if your doctor confirms it, several supplements can help,’ says Dr. Sarah Brewer. A probiotic supplement can be beneficial, as these ‘friendly’ digestive bacteria help suppress the growth of gas-forming bacteria and can improve symptoms caused by abnormal fermentation in the large bowel.
Peppermint oil is another effective treatment, with data from 12 trials, involving almost 600 people, showing it to be more effective than prescribed antispasmodic drugs. Globe artichoke supplements also improve IBS symptoms, with over two thirds of people noticing a benefit within ten days. Many people find aloe vera juice helpful, while psyllium fibre can improve diarrhoea and constipation.

THE EXERCISE

‘There are several reasons why exercise can help IBS sufferers manage their condition,’ says Dean Hodgkin, fitness expert at Ragdale Hall and Energie Fitness (deanhodgkin.com). In the first instance it helps reduce stress, a well- known trigger for IBS symptoms. The reason? Exercise helps boost levels of the mood-regulating hormone serotonin. In addition, getting active stimulates the pituitary gland to release endorphins - the body’s own ‘feel-good’ hormones - which are thought to have analgesic properties.

‘Less tangible benefits of exercise include weight management, social interaction and a sense of achievement after completing a workout; all of which can boost self-esteem,’ says Dean. Despite the current trend, give high intensity interval training (HIIT) a miss and go for gentler activities such as Pilates, power walking and swimming.

THE FOODS

‘FODMAPs - short for ‘oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols’ – found in many healthy foods such as veggies and fruit, as well as insoluble fibres found in wholegrain cereals, are now thought to be the biggest offenders in IBS,’ says nutrition expert Patsy Westcott.
‘FODMAPs draw water into the bowel and ferment, triggering the production of gases, which in turn provoke wind, bloating, pain and discomfort. A low FODMAP diet can bring relief within as short a time as week. Wheat or rye breads can trigger symptoms because they are high in the FODMAP, fructans. Try spelt and gluten-free breads instead.’ For a comprehensive list of FODMAPs, download the Monash university Low FODMAP Diet App.

Nothing beats a healthy, balanced diet to provide all the nutrients we need. But when this isn’t possible supplements can help. This article isn’t intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying supplements or herbal medicines.

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