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Swedish Study Reveals that Exercise Alleviates Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome

A study conducted by a team of researchers from Sweden found that exercise can help alleviate the symptoms of irritable bowel movement.


IBS or irritable bowel syndrome is a health condition that is commonly associated with diarrhea, constipation, bloating, abdominal pain and frequent cramping in the stomach area. Though IBS does not lead to serious diseases and cause permanent damage to the gastrointestinal tract, the illness results to a great deal of distress and discomfort. Some cases of IBS can easily be managed through prescribed medication, stress management and diet. But some worse cases can be disabling and can, in fact, hinder a person from going to work, travel short distances or attend social events.  According to statistics, approximately 1 out of 5 Americans suffer from IBS; thus, the disorder is considered to be one of the most commonly diagnosed gastrointestinal conditions by medical specialists.

Causes and Symptoms of IBS

The symptoms of IBS can easily be mistaken as symptoms of other digestive disorders. The main symptoms are discomfort, bloating and abdominal pain. But this can differ from person to person. Some people with IBS may experience difficulty eliminating waste, others may have uncontrollable bowel movement and diarrhea, while some people will experience an alternation of diarrhea and constipation. In some cases, the symptoms of IBS can stop for a few months but others may experience continuous and worsening symptoms.

There are a few theories explaining the cause of IBS. One theory explains that the disorder is caused by the colon and large intestine’s sensitivity to stress and certain types of food. There may also be a link between IBS and the immune system. One study conducted to investigate the root cause of IBS found that bacterial infection in the gastrointestinal tract may be causing the disorder. Despite numerous studies, the real cause of IBS is still an open subject.

The Effects of Stress to IBS

Stress, as well as troubled, overwhelmed and angered feelings can result to spasms in the colon area. The colon has numerous nerves that connects to the brain and is controlled by the autonomic nervous system. These nerves are responsible for the normal contraction of the colon when the person suddenly feels stressed and nervous. In IBS cases, the colon becomes over-responsive to stress which then results to the symptoms of the disorder. For people whose IBS triggered by stress, the appropriate treatment is stress reduction, adequate sleep, stress management, and support and counseling.

Traditional Treatment for IBS

Around 70 percent of people with IBS are not getting medical care in order to treat their conditions. People will often resort to over-the-counter medicines which are limited to providing temporary relief. And since the cause of the disorder is yet to be discovered, available treatment for IBS can only deal with the relief of symptoms. Treatments include medication, diet changes and stress management. Medical experts will often suggest dietary modifications such as BRAT for diarrhea (banana, rice, applesauce and toast) and fiber supplementation for cases of constipation.

The Benefits of Exercise to IBS

A study conducted by a team of Swedish researchers found that exercise can significantly help people suffering from irritable bowel syndrome or IBS. The study was conducted primarily at the Alingsas Hospital and the Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Gothenburgm, Sweden. The researchers gathered a group of 102 study participants diagnosed with IBS and divided them into two groups; half of them served as the control group and were asked to maintain their usual lifestyle while the other half was given exercise programs which increased their daily physical activities. The two groups received calls from a licensed physiotherapist to assist them with their condition. Lead researcher, Elisabeth Johannesson, said that the active group was asked to perform moderate to vigorous exercises between three to five times a week for at least 20 to 30 minutes.

At the beginning of the study, the study participants were asked to provide relevant information regarding their IBS conditions including the intensity of the discomfort, stool problems, abdominal pain and quality of life. The same procedures were also conducted at the end of the 3-month study period. Senior physician, Riadh Sadik, was responsible for determining the results of the exercise program. He said that the control group had an average symptom decline of 5 points while the active group experienced a 51-point reduction.

The researchers also reported that only 8 percent of the study group felt worse after following the exercising program. 23 percent of the control group, on the other hand, experienced deteriorating symptoms. Sadik concluded that the slightest increase in a person’s physical activity can significantly help alleviate the symptoms of IBS. The study was published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology.

Natural Ways to Alleviate IBS

IBS can be treated naturally – and this starts by knowing which factors are triggering the disorder. More often than not, IBS is caused by an overly sensitive colon. In this case, stress management and restricted diet can help alleviate the symptoms. To start with, stress management has been the most common approach for IBS patients.

Stress plays a major in triggering IBS and has been found by different studies to be one of the most probable cause of the disorder. Though further studies are still needed in order to better understand the relationship between stress and IBS, researchers had found that symptoms tend to worsen during periods of anxiety. Stress management programs and relaxation exercises can help relieve the symptoms of IBS. People suffering from the disorder can seek the advice of a qualified stress therapist.

A study conducted by a team of researchers from the University of Massachusetts Medical School found that people who practice mindfulness meditation to overcome stress can reduce flatulence by up to 22 percent and improve bloating and diarrhea symptoms.

Dietary change is one of the best ways to relieve the symptoms of IBS. Avoiding certain foods that trigger IBS is the most practical and cost-effective approach to the treatment of IBS. Knowing which food types to avoid will help minimize the occurrence and intensity of the symptoms. Examples of foods to avoid are carbonated beverages, high-fat foods, artificial sweeteners (such as aspartame and sorbitol), fried foods, alcohol, gluten and caffeine.

Eating foods with fiber helps normalize bowel movements. Medical experts say that fiber helps decrease abdominal spasms and push waste out of the body. Foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains and oats are the best natural sources of fiber.

Sources
digestive.niddk.nih.gov
eurekalert.org
wellbeing-nutrition.com
findarticles.com
quickcare.org

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