5 Lifestyle Changes to Make after Being Diagnosed with IBS

Everyone gets gas, diarrhea, and constipation occasionally. But if you have discomfort at least one day a week for three months or more, you may have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a condition that affects your large intestine.

No one knows exactly what causes IBS, but there are few things that may contribute to your likelihood of getting it or experiencing worse symptoms:

Regardless of what's triggering or exacerbating your IBS, the treatment depends on your individual set of symptoms. That’s why seeking care for your IBS with Dr. Melissa Delagado and our team of specialized nurse practitioners Wendy Roberts and Amanda McClay at the Chronic Pelvic Pain Center of Northern Virginia is so important. Our philosophy is to approach every type of pelvic pain as unique — a valuable mindset when it comes to IBS, which can manifest itself differently in everyone.

Naturally, we run diagnostic tests, delve into your health history, and give you a thorough medical examination to rule out other potential causes. But more importantly, we listen to your story. What you tell us about your pain, discomfort, and other symptoms can help us develop a treatment plan that will alleviate your symptoms and get you back to living a normal life. Here are five things you can do right away if you’ve just been diagnosed with IBS.

1. Analyze your diet

Food choices can make all the difference in your IBS. The same foods that cause temporary gas in people without IBS can cause excruciating pain for those who have it. The best way to find out what triggers your symptoms is to eliminate a category of food for a while, then slowly reintroduce it. Here are three common culprits:

Don’t do this alone. Our on-staff functional nutritionist helps you figure out what foods may be triggering your IBS.

2. Exercise more

You already know that exercise is important for your overall health, but it’s also a great way to calm your IBS symptoms. 

Exercise combats stress, an IBS enemy. Anxiety can cause abdominal pain, and you don’t need more of that.

Exercise also alleviates constipation. If you’re active at least a half an hour a day, five times a week, your trips to the restroom may be more comfortable and productive.

IBS can make you dread the idea of exercise, but if you can push past that mental block, the physical activity can actually make you feel better.

3. Keep hydrated

Drinking lots of liquids is essential to managing your IBS symptoms. But not all liquid is created equal:

Water

Good old H2O hydrates your body and replaces fluids lost during bouts of diarrhea. It also soothes your stomach. 

Caffeinated drinks

Coffee, tea, and caffeinated soft drinks may cause diarrhea.

Carbonated drinks

Sodas, selzers, and other bubbly liquids cause gassiness.

Alcohol

If you have IBS, happy hour is anything but. Alcohol tends to cause diarrhea. 

4. Sleep well

In a vicious cycle, IBS symptoms can interrupt your sleep, and interrupted sleep can trigger your IBS symptoms. If you worry about getting enough sleep, the anxiety can make your IBS worse, which in turn makes it hard to go to sleep and stay asleep.

Clearly, it’s important to reduce your stress and maximize your sleep quality. Start by downsizing your schedule and eliminating non-essential obligations. Then, try out some stress-relieving activities like prayer, meditation, yoga, laughter, and quiet time.

You can also give yourself an advantage by prepping your room for a good night’s sleep. Pay attention to lighting, sound, and temperature to optimize your chances of snoozing through until morning. 

5. Seek and accept help

IBS can be as embarrassing as it is painful. Many people don’t feel comfortable discussing the private nature of their symptoms, especially at work. But it helps to confide in at least one person who can support you when you need to make an emergency trip to the restroom.

Over-the-counter medications may also relieve some of your symptoms. In addition, fiber supplements can help keep you regular.

Most importantly, come see us at Chronic Pelvic Pain Center of Northern Virginia. We can help you manage your IBS symptoms and any others that crop up as a result of your IBS. You don’t have to live with IBS alone. Call us at 571-261-8069 or request an appointment online to get started on improving your IBS and your life.

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