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IBS Books > First Year: IBS >  Chapters > 5 Key Strategies

Day 2 - Living

Lifestyle management ~ 5 key strategies for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) symptom control

You now know that you do not have a properly functioning GI tract, you have an idea of what's physically going wrong, and hopefully you have a grasp of the underlying reasons why. Well, this knowledge is very nice and all, but the real issue is, what can you do about it? Fortunately, lots!

Diet and stress are typically the two greatest triggers of an abnormal gastrocolic reflex in people with IBS. Eating properly, managing stress, taking medications, trying alternative therapies, and using supplements are the five greatest weapons we have to keep our GI tracts functioning normally and thus prevent our symptoms. You might need to use just one approach, a combination, or all of them.[1]

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It will probably take a little trial and error experience to see what helps you the most, but fortunately there are some lifestyle changes you can make today that should be of immediate benefit. Other strategies may take a few weeks or months to significantly help you.

Five Key Strategies to Control IBS

1. Diet (low fat, high soluble fiber, careful with insoluble fiber, avoid triggers)

2. Stress Management (exercise, sleep, meditation, yoga, tai chi)

3. Prescription Medications (anti-spasmodics, anti-depressants, opioids)

4. Alternative Therapies (hypnosis, acupuncture)

5. Supplements (soluble fiber, herbal teas, enzymes, calcium)

Personally, I've found benefits from all approaches except alternative therapies, which I haven't yet had much luck with though I know many others have. I've also learned that I need to approach my IBS management from both a day-to-day standpoint and with a continuous long-term view as well.

To keep myself stabilized on a daily basis I rely primarily on an IBS-safe diet and peppermint tea, buttressed as needed with soluble fiber supplements. My second-line defense is prescription drugs, which I turn to when my daily management just isn't doing enough to prevent attacks, typically as a result of stress. I don't have to resort to medications too often, though, most likely because of on-going stress management strategies that are always "in the background" of my daily life. For me the most effective means of preventing stress from triggering IBS are sleep, exercise, and reading (which has been my form of meditation since childhood, and is a necessity in my daily life in order to truly relax).

You might want to begin by trying each approach to managing your IBS symptoms in turn, and deciding as you learn and live which particular strategies end up working best for you. So, let's take them in order beginning with Day 3.

Day 2 Summary ~

Eating properly, using supplements, managing stress, trying alternative therapies, and taking medications are the five best ways to keep your GI tract functioning normally. You may need to use just one approach, a combination, or all of them.


Click here to continue reading First Year: IBS.


[1] Most IBS patients report relying on significant trial and error to treat their particular mix of symptoms. Various combinations of diet, stress management, alternative therapies, and medications allow them to arrive at a solution that works best for them. (Results from DrugVoice's IBSVoice survey of over 2,000 patients, one of the largest and most far-reaching studies of IBS patients ever conducted. Melissa Krauth, President, DrugVoice LLC, Update on IBSVoice Panel, February 23, 2001.)

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