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Nature's Insights

Exercising with IBS

Irritable bowel syndrome is a chronic condition which affects the large intestine. It can be very uncomfortable, and it often has a huge negative impact on the lives of sufferers. It requires long-term management and the symptoms vary. Symptoms include:

  • Bloating
  • Trapped wind
  • Indigestion
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhoea
  • Abdominal pain and cramping

IBS symptoms can fluctuate in intensity and can come and go. When symptoms are experienced this is called an ‘IBS flare-up’.

There is no cure, however, there are multiple lifestyle habits you can introduce which may ease symptoms, one of them being exercise.

Can exercise make symptoms worse?

Generally, exercise doesn’t cause symptoms of IBS to worsen however, you must be careful how intensely you are exercising. Overly vigorous exercise may aggravate symptoms however, light to moderate exercise has been shown to ease symptoms.

How does exercise help to ease IBS symptoms?

There have been studies to show that exercise does actually help to relieve symptoms and it is important for sufferers to carry out light to moderate exercise regularly. Studies include:

There is ongoing research into exactly how exercise manages IBS symptoms, it is believed that it is linked to;

  • Better and more sleep – poor sleep is a common cause of an IBS flare-up; using energy to exercise can make you feel tired, therefore you may get better sleep.
  • Encouraging bowel movements and releasing trapped wind – This may help if you suffer from constipation and trapped wind, both causing bloating in the lower abdomen, causing the painful cramps you may experience, exercise may help to reduce this.
  • Better overall wellbeing – Exercise often encourages a healthy lifestyle and the adoption of other healthy habits such as healthy eating. Whatever you consume will have a direct effect on your health and wellbeing, see our blog for 5 foods and drinks that trigger IBS.
  • Stress relief – Exercise is a well-known aid to stress. Your brain and gut have a very strong biochemical connection. By exercising, you are relieving stress from your body meaning your muscles are more relaxed, reducing cramping and aiding the natural digestion process.

What types of exercise are good for IBS?

Exercising brings with it many health benefits, it is recommended that adults should aim to be physically active every day and should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity a week. Read more here.

Walking

Walking is a great exercise option for IBS sufferers, it is low intensity and you won’t require any equipment.

This can be enjoyed with family members or friends (obviously taking into consideration social distancing measures). It is also a good opportunity to get fresh air and reconnect with nature, which may also benefit your mental wellbeing, having a positive effect on your gut.

Light cycling and jogging

If you want a slightly more intense exercise you could try going for a light jog or cycle, if you have access to a bike. This can keep you physically healthy, strengthen your muscles and possibly ease your IBS symptoms.

Stretching and yoga

Stretching is an effective way to ease IBS symptoms, moving and massaging your digestive muscles and organs can help to release trapped wind and encourage bowel movements. It can also reduce tension in your gut meaning cramps may get less intense. Releasing tension from anywhere in your body will likely reduce stress which is a common trigger of IBS. Click here for some easy yoga poses for IBS symptom relief.

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