Heat Therapy for IBS

  • Can direct heat help IBS symptoms? Yes!

    • Why? Intense direct heat - right on your lower abdomen - is a tremendous muscle relaxant. Your entire GI tract is smooth muscle, and relaxing your lower GI tract can help all IBS symptoms.

    • How? When your gastrocolic reflex - which is dysfunctional with IBS - triggers bowel spasms, pain, diarrhea, or constipation, intense lower abdominal heat calms the colon for quick relief.

  • Direct heat can also provide unparalleled relaxation, and help prevent stress-related attacks in the first place, not just relieve cramps and bowel dysfunction once they've begun.

  • Fast, easy, economical options: an electric blanket, hot water bottle, disposable hot packs, or re-useable microwaveable heat wraps applied directly to your abdomen.

    • Disposable hot packs worn beneath clothes are super helpful when you're dealing with IBS symptoms but can't take the day off. They stay hot for up to eight hours and provide continuous heat to relax your colon and relieve symptoms. A wonderful invention for IBS!

  • Luxurious option: try a hot tub, steam bath, or sauna. If possible, engage in regular sessions of heat-induced bliss.

  • Another splurge: a hot oil massage, especially with calming aromatherapy, can work wonders.

  • Mix and match as needed! I use the microwaveable heat wraps at home, disposable hot packs when out and about, and treat myself to a hot oil massage on vacations!

  • Hot packs and heat wraps are particularly helpful for women in anticipation of menstrual cramps.

    • Try direct, intense lower abdominal heat the day and night before you expect to be in pain, and odds are you will significantly lessen both your cramps and the risk of a related IBS attack.

  • Pre-emptive strike! Make an effort to try heat therapy right before any upcoming stressful event. A simple hot bath will do, or even a long hot shower.

  • Side note: direct abdominal heat is not at all comparable to hot weather. Hot weather - especially muggy, hot and humid - is likely to make IBS worse.

Tip Takeaway: Direct intense heat - right on your lower abdomen - is a great muscle relaxant, and can help relieve and prevent most IBS symptoms.

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