10 Tips for IBS Awareness Month

ibsIrritable bowel syndrome affects millions of Americans every day, and April is a time to take action. All month long healthcare providers and communities nationwide will be working together to help raise awareness about IBS, how it is diagnosed, and how to improve the quality of life for those suffering from the condition.

While the cause of IBS is still largely unknown, symptoms often include some combination of abdominal pain, gas, bloating, and diarrhea and/or constipation. If you or someone you know is living with IBS, here are 10 tips for improving bowel health:

  1. Add More Fiber. Fiber supports healthy digestive function by helping to absorb and eliminate toxins in the colon that may aggravate IBS symptoms.‡
  2. Limit Fried and Fatty Foods. Fried foods and certain fatty meats may contribute to IBS. Be sure to consume these types of foods in moderation.
  3. Cut Back on Caffeine. Highly caffeinated foods and beverages (such as coffee, tea, soda and chocolate) have been shown to worsen IBS symptoms.
  4. Avoid Foods High in Sulfur. Some foods that are healthy—including veggies such as Brussels sprouts, cabbage, onions, and broccoli—are high in sulfur and may actually trigger IBS symptoms. Opt for low-sulfur veggies instead.
  5. Don’t Rule Out Food Sensitivity. IBS symptoms may stem from an underlying food sensitivity; the two most common are gluten and dairy. A gluten-free diet, dairy-free diet (or both) may help improve IBS symptoms in some people.
  6. Be Kind to Your Digestive Tract. Many herbs and natural ingredients such as marshmallow root, slippery elm, and the amino acid L-glutamine have been found to help nourish and soothe the intestinal tract and bowel.‡
  7. Promote Balance with Probiotics. Eating more probiotic foods helps maintain a balanced internal environment and supports optimal digestion and bowel health.‡
  8. Drink Plenty of Water. Drinking plenty of water (at least half your body weight in ounces every day) helps flush out toxins and other harmful microbes that may be causing IBS symptoms.
  9. Consider Colon Hydrotherapy. IBS sufferers—especially those with severe symptoms—may find that natural colon hydrotherapy helps cleanse the system and improve digestive health and elimination.
  10. Stay Informed with the IBS Information App. The International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD) provides a mobile app to help people learn more about IBS. IBS Info is available for use on iOS and Android platforms.

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Urban Green Spaces are Good for the Heart

city_heartThe noise, the traffic, the constant hustle and bustle—if you’ve ever lived in a big city, you know how stressful it can be. In fact, studies have shown that city dwellers are typically more stressed out than their rural counterparts, causing physical changes in the brain that can lead to significant mental health damage as well as heart problems over time. On a positive note, Penn State University researchers believe providing “green spaces” may be part of the solution.

A green space is created when an area of undeveloped urban land (such as an empty lot) is cleared and beautified with trees, shrubs, flowers, and other greenery to provide a communal space for people to enjoy. In addition to the environmental benefits—including improved air and water quality, cooler temperatures, and reduced soil erosion—scientists are finding several human health benefits associated with green spaces, particularly when it comes to heart health.

The Penn State scientists recently conducted a study in which a group of people (wearing heart rate monitors equipped with GPS trackers) were asked to walk through their neighborhood before and after it had been renovated to include urban green spaces, and they found that simply strolling through the beautified areas had a positive impact on overall heart rate. Specifically, researchers saw a net heartbeat drop of approximately 15 beats per minute (bpm).

Why the change of heart, so to speak? Possibly because the restored areas made residents feel safer, but more likely because the green spaces had an overall calming effect—an effect seen in previous studies that have linked spending time in nature with reduced stress and improved mood. According to senior author Dr. Charles Branas in a recent press release, “This research on greening urban lots provides an important scientific impetus for urban planners and city officials to take relatively low-cost steps toward improving health for their residents.”

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