On The Table

A collection of knowledge-based articles to inspire overall wellness.

Simple IBS Symptom Relief

Exercise has been implicated to provide multiple health benefits, including digestive health, as regular physical activity shows to relieve constipation and lessen the likelihood of other gastrointestinal-related discomforts. But for individuals with irritable bowel syndrome, may they also find value in exercise?

Simple IBS Symptom Relief

What Is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

Irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, is described as a group of symptoms affecting the digestive tract. Although structural damage is absent, individuals may experience abdominal pain and changes in bowel patterns, including constipation and diarrhea or a combination of the two, with such symptoms potentially resulting to anxiety and depression along with reducing quality of life. The cause of IBS is unclear, though experts speculate innate factors, including genetics and food sensitivities, may become triggered by stress or environmental exposures. At this point in time, there is no cure of IBS and management primarily fixates on adapting lifestyle habits.

IBS and Exercise

Despite what is still left to discover regarding IBS, management generally comes down to lifestyle choices, exercise being one of them. In fact, a small study conducted in the United Kingdom found patients living with IBS who participated in 30 minutes of exercise five days a week improved their IBS symptoms. Additionally, physical activity has also shown to relieve constipation and improve gut health, linking the relationship between exercise and IBS that much stronger. While exercising may be discouraging and unfavorable to some patients, it can improve overall wellbeing while acting as a coping mechanism. And considering stress is a well-known trigger for IBS symptoms, getting active with stress-relieving exercises may be highly beneficial.

Best Exercise for IBS

The best exercise for IBS generally comes down to stress-relieving activities, whether proven or self-identified, and their regular completion. The following exercises may manage or lessen IBS symptoms:

Aerobic Exercise
Also recognized as cardio, aerobic activities can foster good heart health and relieve stress. Exercises include walking and jogging, biking, and swimming. Being low impact yet still beneficial, LISS cardio may also be valuable for IBS patients. Getting out in nature by to exercise, including hiking and kayaking, may also stimulate greater stress relief.

There is no question the practice of yoga has significant mental benefits, stress relief and mood improvement included. Complete this 20-minutes full body yoga workout to tone the entire body and boost emotional health.

Tai Chi
Similar to the premise of yoga, tai chi is a traditional Chinese practice promoted as a general way to fight stress. Learn more about the benefits of tai chi and how to get started here.

Lifting Weights
Lifting weights not only helps stimulate muscle growth and foster lean body mass, but may relieve stress by releasing endorphins, also known as the "feel good" hormone. Additionally, any sort of strength and resistance training can offer great mental and physical benefits. Find out how to add strength training to your workouts here.

Stretching is generally an overlooked component of exercise, though it deserves momentous recognition. Along with lessening the risk of exercise-related injuries, even small stretches have shown to reduce stress, particularly by relieving tension stored in muscles.