Exercise & IBS Management

Here’s a fun topic I hope you can stomach! Bad jokes aside, if you have ever had or are currently suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) then you know that exercise can be a challenging prospect. Here’s what we do know: you need exercise and it helps your gut. So there is no getting around it, you need to find a way to make it work.

Active living

Studies have actually shown that athletes have a greater number and diversity of gut microbiota, which basically means they have a better chance of having smoother digestion.  Furthermore, it has been shown that moderate-intensity exercise (50 to 70% of your maximum heart rate) is a sweet spot for an activity that is likely to avoid flare-ups but still improve gut health. In case you need more justification to exercise despite your IBS, the stress-reducing effects of regular exercise can actually help you manage your IBS better through the mitigation of that stress! 

Ok, now you’re sold. So how can you do it without setting off your IBS? Well, it’s going to take some self-awareness (I know… you’re probably sick of hearing this, but it’s true in most things in life!).  Journaling your food/water, stress, sleep, and exercise and seeing when you get IBS in terms of the time of day and severity can really help. Is your bowel more irritable in the afternoon? During work? First thing in the morning? Figure out where you are most affected and structure your training accordingly to avoid setbacks. Are you sensitive to higher-intensity exercise? Jarring/jostling activities ie. running, tennis etc? Oftentimes, higher intensity means a higher risk of diarrhea. So take note of this as well.  Are you overtrained right now? For example, feeling low energy, always sore, barely recovering, high resting heart rate etc. Being in this state can cause higher cortisol (a nasty hormone that breaks down the body) and inflammation; all of which can trigger IBS. Lots to consider, but you will figure it out when you focus on the rhythm of your day and how it manifests in your body.

Some great advice to follow before exercise is to avoid eating within 2 hours of exercise (especially fatty foods) and avoid caffeine or hot drinks before a workout. As well, try not to increase exercise intensity or frequency too quickly. This idea will vary for everyone so monitor your training volume and intensity to see what works best. I realize this is a lot to manage! However, many of these guidelines are true in general as it pertains to an exercise program so really it comes back to self-awareness and a little organization to set you up on the right path to training comfortably and safely.  

Please feel free to reach out to Preventous personnel on how to work with you to best understand your gut health and optimize your fitness success going forward. Book a time with me or Crystal (our Athletic Therapist) for an individualized exercise program.

Colin Davis
Personal Trainer

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