If you're anything like me, then you've probably found tons of information about how to naturally ditch irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). You know, advice like cutting out processed food, removing gluten and dairy, healing leaky gut, using peppermint oil, or taking a high-quality probiotic supplement. And while all of this is fabulous advice, if the above suggestions weren't enough to ease your IBS, then you're in the right place.
Healing naturally from IBS can be a long road.
When I got diagnosed with IBS 12 years ago, I was told that I simply had to live with it. But I fought back, delving head first into the world of nutrition, which led me down a beautiful (but windy) path of learning to use food as medicine and making space for my body to heal.
However, after implementing a whole-foods, plant-based diet—with lots of green, organic, and minimally processed foods—my tummy still needed some support. I was still getting random bloating and struggling with some minor constipation, so I went back to the drawing board and found some things (on the unusual side) that were massively helpful. So here are five fun and surprising things that can help ease your tummy and digestive issues:
1. Make kefir babies.
This isn't as weird as it sounds…well, OK, maybe it is! But having some organic kefir every day can do wonders for your body.
Kefir is basically a natural homemade probiotic that will help feed your GI system with good bacteria while also containing some B vitamins, calcium, and a whole host of amino acids to help your body repair and rebuild.
You can buy kefir from most health food shops or make it yourself from organic/raw cow's milk or coconut milk mixed with a specific kefir bacteria strain or grains (which I call kefir babies!). Use it in your smoothies, as an alternative to yogurt, or on its own with raw honey.
2. Eat curry.
Most of the time people with digestive issue shy away from spicy foods. And while chili pepper is a common irritant, there are a whole host of healing spices that will do you so much good!
I tend to eat homemade curry about two times each week because it is such a good way of getting the medicinal properties of turmeric, fresh ginger, cayenne, and fennel. Some studies show up to a 50 percent decrease in IBS symptoms among people who consume turmeric on a daily basis, and fennel seeds or freshly grated ginger are also fabulous digestive aids to add to your curry.
3. Breathe deeply.
Did you know that your gut is highly sensitive due to the enteric nervous system running through it? There's a lot of research that supports the idea that stress is a massive factor in IBS, and I have definitely found this to be true. Even being in remission, if I allow myself to get overtired or too stressed out at work, I will have a flare up.
So when it comes to stress we need to be on the offensive and make it a daily practice to breathe, meditate, or calm our bodies down in whatever way will work. I don't do anything fancy to accomplish this; I just play calming music and take 10 minutes to breathe deeply, sometimes counting my breath or using an app if I want something more guided. You will be surprised by the results of this simple practice.
4. Bounce it out.
I know bouncing doesn't seem like a fun activity to do with an upset or bloated stomach, but the act of jumping on a mini trampoline (known as rebounding) can have a ton of benefits.
Many people think that bouncing is good for your lymphatic system, which helps in detoxifying and cleansing the body and can help support your hormone health. A study done by NASA even showed it was fabulous for bone remineralizing, and another unexpected side effect is that the repetitive movement can help stimulate natural bowel function. So if constipation is an issue for you, bouncing can help alleviate painful trapped wind...best to do it in private, though, if this is your aim.
This one is so important! If you are chewing your food four or five times before swallowing, then chances are you're burdening your digestive system. Plus, you're probably swallowing a bunch of air, which can lead to painful trapped wind later.
Our mouth is a key part of our mechanical and chemical digestion, and as we chew we release a key digestive enzyme through the saliva, which helps get the food ready for digestion in the stomach. Ideally, you want to chew until you have a bit of a liquid in your mouth—realistically about 10 to 20 times depending on the food you're eating. A great way of doing this is to put down your knife and fork in between bites so you can focus on chewing. Don't freak out about doing it perfectly; just aim for at least 10 chews!
While some of these therapies seem unconventional, overly simple, or flat out bizarre, they really helped me (and now my clients) take their IBS treatment to a new level. I would recommend them to anyone who has tried the obvious and standard recommendations but still needs a little extra support in taming their IBS.