Breathing Exercises To Improve IBS

Reduce Stress With Breathing Exercises and Improve IBS

Everyone with IBS knows that stress can aggravate the symptoms. Reducing stress over time really can improve IBS symptoms. Fewer IBS symptoms mean a better quality of life!

The best methods for reducing stress to improve IBS long term are those that can become a part of your daily routine. Small changes that lower your stress level every day or several times a day can bring real relief to your digestive system over time.

Here is an explanation of some of the ways that relaxation and breathing techniques can help IBS.  

Mind over Malady

While there’s no single secret antistress remedy for IBS, “anything that touches the soul and reduces your stress level will help,” says Thomas Morledge, MD, of the Center for Integrative Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic. Some people find that guided imagery, in which you imagine a peaceful scene, is an effective and easy way to lower the mental irritations that can trigger gut irritations. For others, meditation or deep breathing works wonders.

If your stress or anxiety is severe, behavioral therapy — which includes relaxation therapy, traditional psychotherapy and biofeedback, among other practices — can provide specific strategies for handling and reacting to situations so you feel better both upstairs and downstairs. For example, learning to express anger in a healthy way can help alleviate IBS symptoms, Dr. Forbes says. “It’s common to find people with IBS who frequently swallow and hold in anger. Early in life, we learn that there are bad consequences for letting it out. It takes a safe environment to express anger before a person can explore that aspect of themselves and begin to heal,” he says.

Belly Breathing Benefits Belly Aches

Practicing deep breathing can unwind your mind while easing tight abdominal muscles. When you breathe deeply from the belly instead of from the chest, you allow the abdominal muscles to relax, encouraging normal bowel activity. Unfortunately, most people tend to breathe shallowly, from the chest, instead of taking in and releasing deep breaths from the abdomen.

Correcting this is as easy as, well, taking a deep breath. Here’s how to do it. Find a quiet spot with few distractions. Start by paying attention to your breathing. Take a “normal” breath, the way you typically breathe.

Then take a slow, deep breath through your nose. Put your hand on your belly to feel your abdomen expand (stop thinking about sucking it in to look good!). Exhale. Continue to slowly inhale and exhale for five minutes, and do it twice a day. It will eventually become automatic, Dr. Forbes says: “Once you get the feel of your belly expanding and pushing outward, it should only take about one month before you retrain the body to breathe this way nearly all of the time.”
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The 1 – 2 – 3 Of Deep Breathing For IBS

Here is a great step by step explanation of how to use the right breathing technique to lower your stress level and improve IBS symptoms. These exercises are easy to do and can become a part of your everyday routine with almost no effort!

Whether you have five minutes or one hour to spare, regular use of the relaxation exercises discussed here will help you to feel more in control of your symptoms, while also promoting positive self-care. It is best to practice on a daily basis and, if possible, at the same time each day. Most people prefer to do the exercises either just upon awakening or prior to bedtime.

Here is a description of three widely used relaxation exercises:

  • diaphragmatic/abdominal breathing,
  • progressive muscle relaxation, and
  • visualization/positive imagery.

Diaphragmatic/Abdominal Breathing

To locate your diaphragm, place your hand above your belly button, just below your ribcage. Practicing abdominal breathing involves allowing your breath to travel deep into your diaphragm.

  • To begin, close your eyes (if you desire) and become aware of your breathing. Notice the way the air feels as it travels in through your nostrils and then out. Next, take a long, slow deep breath inward, bringing the breath all the way down into your abdomen (to know if you are doing this correctly, you should feel your hand rising as you inhale.)
  • When you’ve taken your breath inward, pause briefly and then exhale slowly through your nose or mouth, depending on your preference.
  • Continue this exercise taking 5–10 slow, deep inhalations and exhalations. It is important to keep your breathing slow and rhythmic. To help you slow down, practice counting to four on the inhalation and exhalation, pausing in between. The process will be as follows:
  • Inhale to the count of four 1…2…3…4. Pause. Exhale to the count of four 1…2…3…4.
  • Some people enjoy saying a word or mantra to themselves on the inhalations and exhalations. For example, Inhale R-E-L-A-X…Pause. Exhale R-E-L-A-X.

There is no single right way, so choose whatever feels most comfortable for you.

Continue this process 5–10 times. If you begin to feel faint or light-headed, stop the breathing for 15–20 seconds and then begin again.
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Have you ever tried deep belly breathing to improve your IBS symptoms?



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