IBS and Exercise

We know that exercise is good for all over body health and fitness but it is particularly beneficial for people suffering with irritable bowel syndrome.

Why Does Exercise Help IBS?

When we exercise we increase the blood supply and its circulation throughout our body and this includes the supply to the digestive system. Therefore it makes sense that doing regular exercise will encourage your bowel to work more effectively.

An added benefit is the effect that exercise and being active can have on your state of mind and in helping to promote an overall feeling of wellbeing. When undergoing any form of exercise our brains release chemicals called endorphins. These help us to feel happier and make us less sensitive to pain. They also help you to deal with stress more effectively which is good news for IBS patients.

If you have irritable bowel syndrome symptoms and are experiencing abdominal pain then doing some exercise or activity will actually help! Not only that but if you suffer with constipation then exercise is a good treatment for that too (see post on IBS constipation).

I have to admit that physical exercise is usually the last thing I feel like – I’d rather curl up on the sofa – but on the occasions when the pain hasn’t been really really bad I have found that exercise takes my mind off it and helps me to feel better quite quickly. If you make it a regular habit to do some form of daily exercise then you will be giving your bowel the best chance of dealing with any symptoms and improve your quality of life.

Any there any particular IBS exercises to try?

Here are some gentle exercises that you can do to help improve your abdominal muscles and in doing so enable you to learn to relax them.

1. Lying on your back with your knees bent and feet placed flat on the floor put your hands behind your neck and gently begin to sit up until your shoulder blades are no longer touching the floor. Hold it in this position for a count of at least 3 and then gently lower yourself back down again. This is a really gentle way of doing situps and doesn’t put unnecessary strain on your stomach muscles.

2. I do this following exercise quite often when I have abdominal discomfort. Lying on your back with your feet on the floor right next to your buttocks, gradually lift your hips off the floor while pulling your abdominal muscles in slightly. Then lower back down again. If you are not too sure what to do with your hands just rest them loosely by your sides. I find that this exercise helps to relieve any trapped wind.

3. Another good one for wind and cramping is to massage your abdomen (or use a ball instead). While lying down massage your right hand side colon up towards your rib cage then along the top and down the left side of your colon. It is important to go in a clockwise direction as this is the way that digested food passes along the gut. When you do this exercise you will often notice hardness that seems to move – that is most likely to be wind. Sometimes it might be a muscle spasm that you are feeling. I do this most mornings and evenings although personally I find it the most beneficial in the evenings.

Gentle exercise is all that is needed to help you control your IBS symptoms, there is no need to go overboard and start an intensive fitness program! If you do decide to increase your activity significantly then I advice you to see your doctor first.

Posted in: Exercise, IBS Treatment

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