Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a common condition affecting the digestive system that has symptoms of abdominal pain, stomach cramps, gas, bloating, diarrhoea and constipation. Symptoms tend to come and go over time and can last for days, weeks or months at a time.
Although the primary cause is not known IBS has been linked to things like food passing through your gut too quickly or too slowly, oversensitive nerves in your gut, stress and a family history of IBS.
Unfortunately, IBS can have a big impact on your quality of life. A study of yoga as a treatment for IBS found:
“The incidence rates range from 9 to 23% worldwide and 10–15% in the USA. Though the primary cause and effect are not established, these patients suffer from a host of secondary symptoms such as depression, anxiety, headaches, fibromyalgia, migraines, and chronic fatigue syndrome. Also, the quality of life (QOL) is affected to a greater extent in IBS patients compared to organic GI disorders. Stress impacts the gut physiology leading to brain-gut axis dysfunction and influences the development and exacerbation of IBS.”
There is a strong link between stress and IBS with many suffers experiencing flare-ups of IBS symptoms when stressed. As Yoga international finds:
“…the problem seems to lie in how the nervous system communicates with the digestive tract. Your brain and gut are intricately linked—you might even say that the gut is where the mind and the body meet. Your digestive tract contains hundreds of millions of nerve cells that receive a constant barrage of signals about the state of your body, thoughts, and emotions. This makes your gut highly responsive to changes in your well-being, both physical and emotional.”
Diet can have a big impact on managing the condition and the NHS recommends that keeping a diary of what you eat and monitoring any symptoms can help you can identify foods that trigger your IBS. In addition, they advise that you cook homemade meals using fresh ingredients, find ways to relax, get plenty of exercise and try probiotics for a month to see if they help.
Yoga can be a particularly gentle form of exercise for IBS suffers not least because it can lower your stress levels. Also with yoga, unlike aerobic exercises, you are not jumping around so there is less jarring of your intestines.
The gentle stretching and compression moves of yoga can have a positive effect on the digestive tract and you may find that this alleviates some of your symptoms.
Yoga can also help you be more aware of your body and sensitive to any changes. This mind-body awareness may allow you to better manage your symptoms or avoid foods or stressful situations that can be IBS triggers.
The following video has 20 minutes of yoga moves to help with IBS. Have a watch and let us know in the comments what yoga moves you have found helpful to you.