How Exercising Can Ease Your IBS Pain

Everyone knows that engaging in a regular exercise program can provide overall health benefits. Now, new research is showing that exercise can also help relieve some of the painful symptoms, especially constipation, associated with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Researchers at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom recruited 56 adults (mostly women) diagnosed with IBS and assigned them to a control group in which participants received standard IBS treatment or to an exercise program developed by the researchers.

The patients in the exercise program were given two 40-minute one-on-one exercise consultations to provide them with knowledge, confidence and motivation, with the goal of getting the participants to undertake 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise five times a week. After 12 weeks, patients in the exercise group reported having exercised significantly more often than those receiving standard IBS treatment and had greater improvement in their symptoms of constipation. Encouraging results, said the researchers, since IBS sufferers tend to avoid exercise because of their abdominal symptoms. The study results were published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine. Other studies show that physical activity also helps reduce IBS symptoms in obese sufferers.

Participating in a regular exercise routine, even in gentle exercises like walking, stretching or yoga movements, can reduce the impulse for binge eating, which can exacerbate gastrointestinal problems, help the muscles of the bowel contract normally and lower stress levels, a key trigger of IBS symptoms. However, some IBS sufferers avoid exercise because they fear being away from a bathroom if they have a sudden flare-up. Here are some steps you can take to limit potential problems.

1. Talk to your doctor. Before engaging in any exercise program, be sure to talk to your physician about what type of exercise might be best for you, what might happen to you when you exercise and how to avoid problems.

2. How to avoid runners' diarrhea. Intense exercise like running may increase diarrhea symptoms. To reduce your chances of runners' diarrhea, avoid eating two hours before exercise and don't drink caffeine or hot drinks or eat fatty or gas-producing foods before going for a run.

3. Plan bathroom breaks. Go to the bathroom before exercising and know where the restrooms are if you use a gym or other public places, such as the park, for your exercise.

4. Take it easy. Low-impact activities like yoga, tai chi and Pilates are easy on the body, while providing a good workout.

5. Pick an activity your enjoy. You'll be more inclined to stick to a regular exercise routine if you like what you're doing.