7. Manage your stress levels
Stress has been found to play a role in worsening IBS symptoms, with research showing that there’s a clear link between an irritable bowel and an irritable brain. As the symptoms of IBS are distressing and stress increases the likelihood of a flare up, it’s important to learn good relaxation techniques to bring your levels down.
Abdominal breathing is a superb stress reliever that has been shown to reduce IBS symptoms, as it allows you to let your breath travel deep inside your diaphragm. To practice this, place your hand above your belly button, just below the end of your ribcage. Inhale slowly, drawing the breath deep down – you should see your hand rising if you’re doing it properly. Hold the breath for a second, then exhale steadily through your nose or mouth. You can repeat this process about 5-10 times to calm your mind and body.
Another technique that can be used to reduce stress and therefore IBS flare ups, is positive visualisation, where you sit quietly and envision being in a cosy and peaceful place. Progressive muscle relaxation can also help to calm symptoms, as you tense and then relax the various muscle groups in your body. Lay down somewhere comfortable, close your eyes and start at the tip of your toes, working upwards, tensing and relaxing slowly, until you reach your neck and head. If you’re suffering from IBS, stress may be playing a role, so try incorporating these relaxation techniques into your day, to see if you experience any reduction in your symptoms.