Despite there being so many sufferers of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), the exact cause is unknown, and there is currently no cure.
Sixty per cent of those affected find that cutting out particular trigger foods (gluten, dairy, sugar-free sweeteners and chocolate) can ease their symptoms, but diet alone is often not enough to keep the bloat at bay.
We speak to the experts to find new ways to soothe your digestion…
Try a supplement
One of the most inconvenient symptoms of IBS can be chronic diarrhoea.
‘While anti-diarrhoea medication slows down bowel movements, the harmful substances that contribute to IBS symptoms stay in the digestive tract,’ says top nutritionist Kym Lang.
‘To effectively alleviate the symptoms of IBS-related diarrhoea, I recommend an oral intestinal adsorbent, which works by binding bacterial toxins, immune proteins, fat molecules and bile acids, which may contribute to IBS.’
These nasties are flushed out with the stool, effectively alleviating IBS flare-ups, and reducing the frequency of diarrhoea episodes.
Kym recommends Enterosgel, £20.80, from Enteromed.co.uk.
If you’re feeling bloated and gassy, exercising may be the last thing you feel like doing.
But gentle movement can actually be a great way to ease pain and discomfort.
‘While dietary changes help some get their IBS symptoms under control, lifestyle changes may also be effective,’ says Kym.
‘A 2015 study looked at the effects of twice-weekly yoga classes versus regular walking on IBS sufferers.’
‘Those doing yoga reported significant decreases in symptom severity, gut sensitivity and anxiety, while the walking group showed significant decreases in overall gut symptoms and anxiety.’
Interestingly, more people kept up walking after six months, and benefited from ongoing symptom relief, so pick a way to exercise that you’ll be likely to stick to.’
It may sound a bit hocus pocus, but studies suggest hypnotherapy can be twice as effective at easing painful IBS symptoms as other methods.
In fact, doctors are even able to prescribe it on the NHS.
‘We all know, from personal experience, there is a strong link between our brain and our gut.
For instance, butterflies in the tummy when we are nervous,’ says Professor Whorwell, author of Take Control Of Your IBS: The Complete Guide To Managing Your Symptoms.
‘The idea behind gut-focused hypnotherapy is that instead of this connection between brain and gut usually being negative, we exploit it in a positive way and enable the patient to exert control over our gut in order to make it work more normally.’
Special gut-focused hypnotherapy has been shown to improve the symptoms of IBS in 70% of patients.
‘It helps all the different symptoms that many severe IBS patients suffer, such as back pain, constant tiredness and nausea,’ adds Professor Whorwell.
‘Fortunately, the benefits of hypnotherapy are long lasting, therefore patients don’t have to keep coming back for more treatment.’
Talk to your GP if you think you could benefit from hypnotherapy.
Yoga instructor Hannah Barrett shares her tips for helping manage IBS…
l Get squeezing Having a strong pelvic floor is important for controlling bowel movements, but it’s equally important to learn how to relax them.
Seeing a pelvic health physio can be helpful to teach you how to do this if you find you have difficulties.
The POGP (Pelvic, Obstetric & Gynaecological Physiotherapy) in the UK has a directory of physios, or see your GP for a referral.
Hannah Barrett’s Strength Through Yoga plan is available for £39.99 at yogagirllondon.com.
Lean forward with your knees higher than your hip level if possible (pop your feet on a small step, or anything you can find – even a paint pot will do the trick!) and don’t hover above the toilet seat.
It helps to relax the pelvic floor muscles.
Yoga poses like ‘The Cow’, ‘The Cobra’, ‘Child’s Pose’ and ‘Crescent Moon’ can help stimulate digestion, reduce bowel transit time, and relax the pelvic floor.
Also don’t forget knee hugs, then rolling yourself from side to side will stimulate the gut too.