It’s not a pleasant experience to feel gassy, bloated, or uncomfortable while exercising. However, this is a common problem for those with IBS.

Exercise can help improve IBS symptoms if you don’t feel good in your stomach or you fear you might need to run to the toilet at any time. It’s important to know what type of exercise is best for you and what you should avoid. Some training methods can make you feel worse than you were before.

What is Irritated Bowel Syndrome?

Irritable bowel syndrome (or IBS) is a common digestive disorder that affects the large and small intestines. It can affect between 10-30% of the population. It is more common in women than in men. Studies point out that sex hormones play an important part in the condition’s pathophysiology.

IBS can be a chronic condition that can lead to bloating, excessive gas, constipation, diarrhea, or both, as well as cramping and abdominal pain. These symptoms may vary from person to person.

Although it is not life-threatening or dangerous, IBS can cause discomfort and have a negative effect on your daily life. IBS is a condition that isn’t easily treated, and the cause is unknown. However, there are some lifestyle modifications that can help to improve symptoms.

IBS symptoms: What causes them?

Common triggers that can cause IBS symptoms to flare up include:

  • Food intolerances (e.g., lactose or wheat, gluten, onion, garlic, etc.)
  • Overly processed, spicy, fatty, or sugary foods
  • Hormonal changes
  • Alcohol
  • Coffee or caffeine
  • Stress
  • Some medications
  • Gastrointestinal infections

What does exercise do to IBS?

It all depends on how intense and the training style you use when it comes to IBS symptoms and exercise. Although everyone is different, it seems that flare-ups are more common if you exercise for more extended periods of time and at a higher intensity. This is because high-impact and high intensity training can cause digestive problems that can lead to additional stress on your entire body.

However, low- to moderate-intensity exercises may improve your symptoms by reducing stress and inflammation and promoting healthy bowel movements and the release of excess gas. This can also help improve your overall health and well-being.

One 2018 study examined the effects of moderate to low-intensity exercise on women with IBS. After 24 weeks, both anti-inflammatory biomarkers and antioxidant biomarkers were significantly higher in sedentary patients.

Another 2019 study examined the effects of six weeks of aerobic exercise for 20 women with mild-to-moderate IBS. While the control group carried out their normal daily activities, the exercise group did 30 minutes of aerobic training three times per week. Researchers observed significant improvements in their symptoms and quality of life when compared with the control group.

2015 study also found positive long-term effects on IBS symptoms. The aim was to evaluate the effects of exercise on IBS symptoms and quality of life over a period between 3.8 and 6.2 years. The most popular activities were walking, cycling, and aerobics.

You might consider trying Barre with Britany or Pilates with Sara. Or even BUILD, which is a program that focuses on heavy lifting without jumping. Take note of how you feel, and adjust to your body.

IBS Tips:

  • Before you start a new exercise program, it’s a good idea for your healthcare provider to consult with you and get their advice. If your healthcare provider recommends against you starting a new exercise program, don’t.
  • You can start with low- or moderate-intensity exercises like walking and cycling. Keep track of how you feel after each session.
  • High-intensity or high-impact exercise can cause more stress to your body and digestive system. Jumping and running could also cause digestive problems. Core exercises may be fine for some, but they can also cause discomfort and strain to your abdomen for others.
  • You may feel more comfortable doing moderate or low-intensity exercises, but you want to do more intense or heavier strength training. It’s best to slow down and listen to your body. You may need to slow down, take more breaks, modify certain movements or stop altogether, depending on how you feel.
  • Caffeine (e.g., prework) should be avoided before exercising as it can cause a number of symptoms.
  • Hydration is essential for healthy bowel movements and good digestion.
  • It can be helpful to exercise at home if your symptoms or flare-ups are not predictable or sensitive to exercise.

Yoga is a powerful tool.

One 2019 review suggests that yoga may be safe and effective for IBS sufferers. It may also help improve IBS symptoms. Yoga can also be as effective as diet changes and moderate-intensity walks when it comes to improving physical and mental health. Although more research is necessary, current evidence supports yoga’s effectiveness as a therapy for IBS sufferers.

Another 2015 study was designed to assess the effectiveness of a Remedial Yoga program as an IBS intervention. Researchers observed significant improvements in the IBS treatment groups that participated in the yoga course compared to the control.

If you are looking for a program to practice yoga, the Sweat app offers two options: Yoga With Phylicia or Yoga With Ania. You can also choose a flow from the On-Demand section.

The amazing thing about yoga and practices such as mindfulness or meditation is that they can help you to be more in touch with your triggers and symptoms, as well as calm your mind.

IBS can be a difficult condition. Begin slowly and keep track of the exercises you do, how you feel, and any other symptoms. If your symptoms worsen, let your healthcare provider be aware. Keep the training methods that you like.

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