8 Little Ways to Get Digestive Relief

Insider tips that may help relieve your IBS-C or CIC troubles.

Kathleen Engel

Embrace your normal.
Sometimes people with IBS with Constipation (IBS-C) and Chronic Idiopathic Constipation (CIC) can get “bowel-obsessed.” “The biggest thing that has helped me is learning to not get bogged down with trying to have as many BMs as everyone,” says constipation sufferer Kat Price from Fairfax, VA. “I had to get used to what my normal was and focus on what my body is doing.”

Take a sure-bet side to parties.
“Rather than asking friends to change what they are making, I just bring a side dish I know I can eat,” says IBS-C sufferer Rachel Byrd. For a party, Rachel totes hummus, crackers and white wine—easier on her tummy than red wine! Important: As always, check with your healthcare provider before making changes to your diet, exercise or lifestyle plan.

Opt for medium intensity.
While physical activity is study-proven to help stimulate bowel movements, don’t push yourself too hard—30 to 45 minutes a day of walking will do it. Sustained high-intensity exercise (e.g., long-distance running) actually diverts blood away from your gut to your muscles—interfering with digestion and triggering the symptoms you’re trying to prevent, explains Gerard E. Mullin, MD, AGAF, co-author of The Inside Tract and associate professor of medicine and director of Integrative GI Nutrition Services at Johns Hopkins.

ID your trigger ingredients.
Many common ingredients in packaged foods can set off symptoms. Scan nutrition labels for the following culprits, recommends Kathie Swift, RD, co-author of The Inside Tract: gluten, high fructose corn syrup, inulin and fructooligosaccharides, MSG, hydrogenatedfat, carrageenan, nitrates and nitrites, sulfites and gums, such as guar and xanthan. Then note how you feel after eating foods containing them.

Order it your way.
No need to feel shy about requesting special orders—considering all the people with food allergies, vegans and low-carbers, restaurant servers have heard it all and won’t blink an eye. “I’ve found restaurants are really accommodating,” says Rachel. “I’ve actually ordered pizza with cheese only on half—so a friend could have his cheesy slices and I wouldn’t get sick!”

Pop pumpkin seeds…
…or spinach or Swiss chard or black beans. They’re all rich sources of magnesium, a mineral that promotes bowel movements. Yet most Americans are deficient in the mineral, says Elizabeth Lipski, PhD, clinical nutritionist, academic director of Nutrition & Integrative Health, Maryland University of Integrative Health, author of the book, Digestive Wellness. “Slowly increase your intake until you have regular and easy bowel movements,” she says. Or ask your healthcare provider if a supplement is right for you.

Foil food pushers with firmness.
When Aunt Martha just won’t take no for an answer, say: “I wish I could eat a huge portion of your eggplant parmesan, but I know my stomach can’t handle it. I also know you wouldn’t want me to get sick.” That way, she’ll understand you’re not being picky, but careful.


Get your ZZZs!
Poor sleep, lack of rest and constant stress can worsen your IBS, says Dr. Mullin. Shoot for 7½ to 9 hours of quality sleep each night. Go to bed the same time each night. Establish a relaxing routine before bedtime. And avoid alcohol and stimulants two to three hours before lights out!

Try a daily 10-minute massage.
Relaxing the muscles that support your intestines can help get your bowels moving. Lie on your back and palpate your belly until you find the tops of your pelvic bones, says physical therapist Kendra Harrington. Starting on the right side, press moderately hard, making small clockwise circles with two or three fingers. Work your way up to the base of your rib cage, slightly above your belly button. Continue across your belly, and then down to your pelvic bone on the left side. Repeat 10 times, for a total of 10 minutes. Note: Skip if you have abdominal pain.

April 2014