When it comes to IBS, exercise can be a funny thing. On one hand, studies have reported that up to 50% of athletes experience gastrointestinal discomfort when they exercise. However, it’s logical to think that exercise may help, since exercise is good for our overall health. So what do we believe? And what do we need to know about IBS and exercise?
Overall, exercise is good for us! There are many physical and mental benefits to exercise and some versus no exercise is always better, however intensity and timing of exercise does impact IBS symptoms.
How can exercise be a negative for IBS?
Strenuous, high intensity exercise or activity is associated with IBS symptoms such as cramping, diarrhoea, bloating, nausea, altered bowel movements and even vomiting. It is not fully understood, but possible mechanisms could be decreased blood flow to the gastrointestinal tract due to the increased needs of contracting muscles. Another theory is the bouncing motion of exercise, particularly running.
Some people recommend that IBS sufferers refrain from participating in strenuous exercise. It is also recommended to avoid exercise within the hour after eating. This is to reduce the risk of symptom flare up.
Ok, so we’ve got the bad new out of the way, now to be benefits.
Benefits of Exercise and IBS
Recent studies have shown that participating in 30 minutes of mild to moderate physical activity five times a week has a beneficial impact on IBS. Participants in the study reported significantly improved symptoms of as well as digestion and quality of life!
Stress is a common trigger of IBS symptoms, but it’s a bit of a catch 22 situation. This is because whilst exercise can improve stress, it can also aggravate symptoms. Subsequently, exacerbation of symptoms can then evoke stress. Exercise helps people with IBS cope better emotionally. Participants in a 12 week moderate intensity exercise program reported less stress and anxiety, and improved well-being following the program. The exciting thing about the study was these participates were still completing similar exercise 5 years on and continued to experience symptom relief!
Continuing with the theme of stress reduction, a study published earlier this year further confirmed the benefits of yoga on IBS symptoms. The review article showed that participating in yoga significantly reduced bowel symptoms and anxiety, as well as improved quality of life.
Given the nature of IBS, and symptoms a sufferer may experience, participating in regular exercise isn’t always easy. Here are some suggestions to make it easier for you:
- Schedule a couple of short sessions per week, particularly when starting out.
- Pick an exercise or activity you enjoy! You will notice more stress reducing effects if you enjoy what you are doing!
- Ensuring adequate hydration prior to activity can help reduce risk of symptom flare up.
By Kate Bennett
Start feeling better now! By signing up to The FODMAP Challenge you will receive meal plans, recipe ideas, and regular support with other resources, to make this as easy for you as possible.