One in five people live with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), a common condition that affects the digestive system, resulting in symptoms like diarrhoea, bloating, cramps, constipation and fatigue, yet it’s still a relatively taboo subject.
Bold Health, the founders of IBS management app Zemedy, held a gut health event in June to help challenge that. Bringing together a room full of medical experts, from gastroenterologists to CBT therapists and nutritionists, to many who live with digestive disorders. We’ve broken down the five things you should definitely be doing more of to help manage your IBS, as told by the expert panel.
“It’s not just about what you eat but how you eat”
Chew, Chew and Chew Some More
It’s not just about what you eat but how you eat. Hannah Richards, Nutrition and Lifestyle Coach and founder of The Gut Clinic, reiterates that mastication, aka chewing, is the fundamental start of digestion. The more you chew, the smaller the piece of food becomes making it easier to digest.
Richard’s also recommends taking a break away from your computer screens and sitting down to enjoy your food, giving yourself a proper 30-minute break. It’s time to start enjoying eating again.
Look into Gut-Focussed Hypnosis
As we learn more about the gut-brain connection, we start to hear more about mindful practices including hypnosis, where your mind is taught to control your gut. Professor Peter Whorwell, Director of the South Manchester Neurogastroenterology Service and a Gastroenterologist at the University Hospital of South Manchester, says “We use hypnosis to calm the patient down. We call it gut-focussed hypnosis actually and we use it to change the function of the gut.”
Whorwell continues “I run a lab where we put tubes in unspeakable parts of people’s bowels and record the activity of the gut and we’ve shown that hypnosis can change the activity of the gut. So most of us think the brain has a negative effect on the gut, we all know that, and what we’re doing with hypnosis is reversing that and teaching the brain to have a positive effect on the gut.” He claims an 80% response rate and it can work equally as well over Skype.
Challenge Unhelpful Beliefs
CBT therapist, Aleen Banurji spoke around the impact cognitive behavioural therapy can have in identifying your thoughts, your emotions that go with those thoughts and the behaviours as a result, all of which impact your body. Often patients hold onto unhelpful beliefs, one example would be declining an invitation to a social gathering through fear. Banurji notes “Let’s challenge that thought and ask why. Is it because you fear you might lose control, or you might be embarrassed and we as CBT therapists look at that and try very gently to encourage small outings so that they’re manageable, so the end result isn’t the catastrophic thinking that often patients have.”
Next time an unhelpful thought crosses your mind, note it down and ask yourself why you thought that. Challenge it. See if it sticks.
Catch Some Zzzzzzzzs
The NHS advise that an adult should have between six and nine hours sleep per night to allow the body to repair, but do you make that a priority? By carving out time to wind down before bed, practicing relaxation techniques and easing your muscles with gentle stretches, you’re calming your mind and body, preparing for a quality night’s sleep.
Why not try setting a strict bedtime and challenge yourself to stick to it for a week.
Become Self Aware
The final point that became apparent was to become more self-aware. Educate yourself to know what stress looks like in you and find techniques that allow you to work through it. Whether that be walks in green spaces, breathing techniques, meditation, journaling or gentle exercise.
Bold Health is the digital therapeutics company that created Zemedy, a personalised digital solution for IBS and gut health based on the latest science and with a whole-body approach to your long-term health and wellbeing. We provide a customised treatment plan based on behavioural medicine, built with a world class medical advisory team. Our effective non-drug interventions will enable you to find relief when and where you need it. You can set your goals for recovery, then listen to our learning modules and practice the exercises at your pace.
Check out www.zemedy.com for app updates!