IBS exercise: the simple breathing exercises to do after eating to relieve symptoms

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IBS can stand in the way of living life to the full. Not only are the symptoms often inconvenient or embarrassing, but having IBS can make people anxious about eating, socialising, or travelling too far from home. However, this daily exercise has been found to relieve symptoms.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome – most commonly known as IBS – is an uncomfortable and often embarrassing condition that affects up to one in five people in the UK.

IBS can be inconvenient, getting in the way of people going about their daily life.

According to the IBS network, 40 percent of IBS patients regularly need to take time off work due to their condition.

The main symptoms of IBS are:

  • Stomach cramps, especially after eating
  • Bloating
  • Diarrhoea
  • Constipation

If you think you might have IBS, but you haven’t been formally diagnosed, you should see your doctor. Changes to your bowel habits could be symptoms of other illnesses so it’s important to rule anything more serious out first.

So, what is the one exercise that can relieve IBS symptoms?

Most IBS sufferers experience the most acute symptoms after they’ve eaten a meal.

This can cause people to feel anxious around mealtimes, and avoid eating during flare-ups.

But, experts say simple breathing exercises can help digesting for people with IBS.

Stress is one of the most common triggers for an IBS flare-up, so this mindfulness exercise can help to bring your anxiety levels down.

Writing in an IBS network blog, specialist gastro-dietitian Jennifer Ryan says: “Never underestimate the beneficial effect of deep breathing (diaphragmatic breathing) on the gut.

“It relaxes your gut-brain axis, can calm your gut muscles and stimulates your parasympathetic nervous system which helps you ‘rest and digest’.”

One of the causes behind IBS flare-ups is stress, and these deep breathing techniques can help to relieve stress around mealtimes.

Your diaphragm is the muscle at the base of your chest that controls your breathing and allows you to take very deep breaths into the lungs.

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Lots of mindfulness exercises, as well as professional actors and singers, focus on breathing techniques from the diaphragm as they allow you to take in a lot of air, and control your breathing better.

Jennifer Ryan says: “Start small with two to five minutes per day, and build up from there. Doing these exercises daily is what counts.”

To give diaphragmatic breathing a go, start by lying down on the floor or your bed.

Put your hands on your belly so you can feel the diaphragm expand and contract with your breathing.

Start by inhaling for a count of four, then pause for a few beats before exhaling for a count of four.

Repeat for a few minutes, building up how long you can inhale and exhale for.

If you’re doing this after eating a meal, some experts suggest visualising your food digesting smoothly through your system can also help alleviate bloating symptoms.

If you’re bloated or have trapped wind after eating, some light stretching exercises can help to massage your digestive system and get things moving: in other words, it’s like a grown up version of winding a baby.

Gentle exercise is thought to help with IBS, particularly walking and jogging. This is because exercise generally helps to relieve stress, and can help you to sleep better.

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