Do you struggle with heartburn, bloating, constipation, or other IBS symptoms? These cheap and easy tips are things you can start today to improve digestion and help you feel better fast!
The first things most people turn to when Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) symptoms flare up are diet changes and supplements. And I have nothing against a short trial of Low FODMAPs or other gut healing diets and supplements.
But the tips on this list are even more important and have less risk than food restrictions and popular gut supplements. That’s because they address the foundational mechanisms that help the body digest well: optimizing stomach acid, enzymes, and bile; improving gut motility; and supporting a balanced gut-immune system.
If you have new or mild IBS symptoms, these are a great place to start.
If you have more chronic or severe symptoms, these will help you get better and more lasting results from more aggressive interventions you may need (gut healing diets, targeted supplements, or medication protocols).
Cheap & Easy IBS Tips Anyone Can Do
Some of these may be more helpful than others, depending on what your particular symptoms are. I tell my clients to pick a few at a time to try, adding others gradually if helpful.
1. Eat at a Table
Instead of eating at your desk, in front of the TV, or in the car, aim to eat most meals seated at a table. This helps create a boundary where everyday work and life demands are set aside, and we come into a space reserved for nourishment and digestion. Bonus points if you can eat with others – we tend to eat more slowly and enjoy food more when we’re connecting with others over our meal.
2. Deep Breathe before Eating
Before you dive right in to eating, take a moment to do a few deep belly breaths, focusing on long slow exhales (the 4-7-8 method is a good one for this). This helps your brain and nervous system shift out of fight or flight (sympathetic state) and into rest and digest (parasympathetic state) – in this parasympathetic state, you’ll produce more digestive juices (stomach acid, digestive enzymes, and bile), and will have better gut motility.
I really like the free and simple “One Deep Breath” app for quick guided breathing exercises.
3. Eat with your Eyes and Nose First
Take in the food visually and smell it before lifting your fork. This increases signaling from the brain to rev up digestive juices and gut motility.
4. Eat slowly and chew well
Most people don’t even realize how fast they eat, chewing each bite only a few times and loading their fork with their next bite before they’ve swallowed the first! Instead, we should take smaller bites, chew until food is pureed, and set our fork or spoon down between bites.
There are two main reasons for this:
- Our teeth help immensely with manual digestion of food, which reduces how much chemical digestion has to be done by stomach acid and other digestive juices once we swallow.
- The longer food is in the mouth, the more saliva is produced, which contains enzymes to start chemically breaking down carbohydrates and fats. This too takes the pressure off of how much chemical digestion is needed after we swallow.
5. Limit meal time fluids to 4 oz
The more liquid you drink with your meal, the more you will dilute the pH of your stomach acid. We want robust stomach acid to help chemical digestion of your food, and to signal release of enzymes and bile further down in the GI tract as the food moves through. More acidic stomach acid also helps reduce the likelihood of small intestinal bacterial or yeast overgrowth (SIBO or SIFO).
6. Linger at the table after eating
Don’t rush off as soon as you finish your meal. Instead, take a few minutes to relax, reflect on the meal, and visit with anyone who’s with you. This added time in parasympathetic “rest and digest” state allows more digestion to take place before you jump back into sympathetic “fight or flight” mode.
7. Drink herbal tea after meals
Enjoying a cup of hot tea is relaxing in itself, but blends that include digestive aids on their ingredient lists like this organic After Dinner Tea with fennel, licorice, and ginger are even better.
8. Give your gut a day off
Taking one day each week or month to drink only liquids like broths, juices, and water gives your body a break from the work of digestion (and give you a break from symptoms!).
9. Do this breathing exercise to relieve bloating and pain
- Lie flat on your back in a quiet place.
- Unbuckle any belts, unbutton pants, etc. to relieve abdominal pressure.
- Close your eyes and breath deeply and slowly, ensuring you’re expanding your abdomen (belly breathing), not just your chest. Focus especially on long, slow exhales.
- Optional: lay a heating pad over your abdomen while you do this to help relax the muscles even more.
10. Try abdominal massage to move gas and stool
This can be done on its own or combined with the breathing exercise above. Use medium pressure to trace the path of your small and large intestines, encouraging the bowels to move gas and stool down the tract. This quick video demonstration of the “I Love You” massage by a pelvic floor Physical Therapist is great.
11. Practice yoga positions for IBS
Various yoga positions can help relieve trapped gas and encourage the bowels to move, including: table top, cat/cow, bridge, happy baby, malasana squate, and others.
Gargling aggressively to the point of tearing up is a way to stimulate the vagus nerve, which can improve GI motility for some.
13. Use a potty stool
Stools like this one that raise the feet while you’re seated on the toilet create a better position for smoother bowel movements with less straining.
14. Walk it out
Regular physical exercise helps stimulate muscle contraction in the bowels. Nearly any exercise will do, but a brisk walk engages a lot of abdominal and pelvic muscles for even more help moving gas and stool.
15. Try the Nerva App
Nerva is a hypnotherapy app that has been shown to be as effective as Low FODMAP for relieving IBS symptoms. Anyone can benefit, but especially those who feel there is a strong brain/nervous system component to their IBS (i.e., stress is a major trigger, also experiencing brain fog or depression/anxiety, etc.).
NEED MORE IBS RELIEF?
I’ve helped many clients overcome IBS and other complex gut issues with a personalized plan for food, supplements, lifestyle, and comprehensive stool testing, and I’d love to help you too! Schedule a free call to see if we’re a good fit.