Taking steps to improve your quality of life with IBS
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is the most commonly diagnosed disorder of the GI tract, according to the American College of Gastroenterology. IBS can dramatically affect the quality of life for those who suffer from it, in fact studies have suggested that IBS sufferers have a substandard quality of life when compared to people with other chronic health conditions such as diabetes and end-stage renal disease.
In part one of IBS 101: Lifestyle Changes for IBS Management we touched on how getting enough sleep, improving sleep quality, and increasing movement are ways to help improve IBS symptom management and increase the overall quality of life in people who suffer from IBS. Since IBS is a disorder of the brain-gut interaction, taking care of your mental and emotional health is one of the most important behaviors you can implement for self-care.
You have to make yourself a priority
Reducing Stress & Anxiety. Taking care of your emotional health needs to be a top priority when living with IBS. Not only can IBS make your life more stressful, but stress can also cause IBS. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 50-90% of IBS sufferers present with either depression or anxiety upon seeking treatment.
The American Gastroenterological Association and the American College of Gastroenterology recommend both gut-directed psychotherapies and relaxation techniques as approaches for stress reduction in IBS. These therapeutic approaches are centered around the dysfunction in the gut-brain connection in IBS and appear to be safe when used as a part of an-inclusive approach to your medical treatment.
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) CBT is a therapy technique that helps people to reduce stress and cope with other issues in their lives by finding ways to change their thought patterns. In CBT related to IBS, there are many techniques that can be utilized to help sufferers including pain management and coping with stress and chronic illness.
- Gut-directed Hypnotherapy This type of therapy has been used with IBS, IBD and GERD sufferers and involves a trained therapist who takes individuals in a focused mental state using guided imagery or suggestions into a state of complete relaxation while helping the sufferers experience their gut-functions in a more pleasing and less troublesome manner.
- Yoga- A mind-body relaxation practice that requires no equipment, just physical poses, controlled breathing and sometimes meditation techniques that focus on relaxation. There are many free videos available for beginners or consider a class. Yoga is considered to be safe for most people, however some individuals may want to consult with their medical provider before starting a yoga program.
- Meditation- Meditation is a deep relaxation technique that has been used around the world over the reach of time. Practicing meditation techniques produces a relaxation-response that can reduce both stress and the body’s response to inflammation, deeply impacting our gut-health by becoming calm and relaxed.
- Massage or Progressive Muscle Relaxation- Progressive muscle relaxation technique takes you through a full-body relaxation experience by targeting muscles for tension and release from your head to your toes. Beyond your full-body massage for relaxation, there are also abdominal massage techniques to help with IBS symptom relief.
- Breathing Exercises- such as diaphragm breathing exercises for IBS.
Remember that you have to take time for your self-care. Start by scheduling time into your daily routine for practicing self-care, whether it is introducing some movement into your day or setting aside some time for stretching and meditation/mindfulness.
I have struggled with making time for self-care, like many, and have found some tools to put into my toolbox that I think could be helpful to you as well:
- My favorite meditation & mindfulness app that I was recommended during graduate school, which really was a lifesaver for winding down my mind at night, is Buddhify. They have guided meditations (the sleep ones are incredible) for “what’s going on” such as stress, on a break, waking up, can’t sleep, etc. and run from 4 to 30 minutes each.
- Sleep quality was a horrible issue for me for many years and I literally tried everything to get a good night’s rest. I don’t want to call anyone out, but if you sleep with someone who may snore...the greatest investment I ever made to make my sleep quality the best were the Bose Sleepbuds. They have a wide catalog of noise cancelling sounds to sleep to, as well as some relaxing sounds for anytime and they’re comfortable to sleep in. You can’t even feel them (and I'm a sleep roller).