How to Manage Your Constipation Caused by IBS

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) has become a common condition across North America, with 12% of individuals experiencing constipation, diarrhea, stomach pain, bloating and/or gas. Many individuals seek medical care to gain insight on their irregular bowel habits yet are left without answers. If you’ve been affected by IBS and are experiencing constipation, you know how frustrating it can be! So, lets talk about why it may be showing up in your body and what you can do to manage it, naturally.

 

What causes IBS?

I’ll be honest, the cause of IBS is not well understood. However inflammatory, environmental, psychological and dietary factors leading to alterations in intestinal microbiota are potential reasons why constipation arises. About 1 in 10 people will report that their IBS began with an infectious illness that has led to persistent bowel symptoms. This is likely a result of residual low-grade inflammation and changes in the intestinal bacterial composition.

 

What can trigger or worsen symptoms of IBS?

(1) Infections

A lingering gastrointestinal infection creates inflammation in the digestive tract. This can result in persistent bowel symptoms in someone with IBS.

(2) Food Intolerances

Individuals with IBS may have specific food intolerances that affect their ability to digest foods properly, leaving them constipated, bloated and full of gas.

(3) Stress

Stress and anxiety can have a profound affect on the gastrointestinal system by affecting the nerves that regulate the function of the bowels.

(4) Medications

Specific medications (i.e. acid suppressants, antibiotics) are known to alter the intestinal microbiota, causing diarrhea or constipation in those suffering from bowel troubles.

 

How to manage constipation-dominant symptoms

(1) Eliminate FODMAP Foods

Consuming high FODMAP (Fermentable Oligo-, Di-, Mono-saccharides And Polyols) foods can be a trigger for people experiencing IBS and exacerbate symptoms. Adopting a low-FODMAP lifestyle showed significant reduction in abdominal pain and bloating, ultimately leading to less inflammation in the digestive tract and consistent bowel movements. Some highly consumed FODMAP foods that should be avoided include garlic, onions, beans, cow’s milk and wheat.  

(2) Heal with Herbs

Herb formulas with anti-spasmodic, cholagogue and bitter properties are often used to improve bile flow and treat constipation. They work by assisting the body in digesting foods. Commonly used herbs include Chamomile, Gentian, or Globe Artichoke. Herbs are often found in combination formulas which offer synergy between the different properties.

(3) Supplement with Magnesium

Magnesium is natures natural muscle relaxant. It plays a vital role in muscle contraction and relaxation, as well as nerve conduction. Chronic stress accelerates magnesium depletion, often leaving the body in a state of deficiency. Magnesium is an effective treatment for constipation as it encourages relaxation of the intestinal muscles. Speak to your ND to determine what dose of magnesium is right for you.

(4) Move Your Body, Daily!

Exercise has numerous researched health benefits, however one of the over-looked advantages is for constipation. It is known that bowel movements are more frequent and colon transit time is more rapid in physically active individuals. Whether it be yoga or aerobic physical activity, find time in your day to move your body.

 

As there are other conditions that share similar symptoms to IBS, I encourage you to work with a naturopathic doctor to get a thorough assessment with the necessary laboratory testing done.

 

References:

PMID: 2344949524944467, 28846594 30232834

Erin Enns