Yoga And IBS, A Healing Combination

A couple of years ago I got diagnosed with IBS, or Irritable Bowel Syndrome. My first thoughts were: What is it and how did I get it? For the second question, there isn’t an answer unfortunately, the cause of IBS is to this day unknown. There are factors though that might play a role in creating the syndrome. A first flare can, for example, start after an inflammation in the intestines, a change of bacteria in the intestinal system, etc.

The symptoms of an IBS attack or flare are pain, cramps, gas, diarrhea and or constipation, changes in bowel movements, etc. Symptoms and sincerity differ from person to person and also from episode to episode. 

Around 10-15% of people suffer from IBS, so it’s not such a rare disease, which makes it a lot easier to find a lot of documentation about it. A cure, on the other hand, there isn’t. However, with all the things we know so far, there are a lot of methods we can use to relieve the symptoms and lead a normal life. In this article, I will deliver you some information, mostly about yoga and food.

IBS and Food

On of the methods on how to relieve IBS is by taking care of your diet. And now I’m not talking about the standard diet to lose some weight. There is a method called the low-FODMAP diet. FODMAP stands for fermentable oligo-, di-, mono-saccharides and polyols. And they are the carbs that are only processed in the lower intestines, which makes them quite hard for our system to digest. With people who have IBS, this causes symptoms like diarrhoea, bloating, gas, …

Picture by Amy Myers MD

When I first got diagnosed with IBS nobody told me about this and I never looked further into it. But recently I had a big flare again and when I went to the doctor again he revealed to me this method. When I looked at the paper I instantly saw that beans were one of the highest FODMAPS on the list. Okay, I knew already that beans weren’t that good for the intestines, but as a vegetarian, it’s my main source of protein. But alright, let’s cut the beans. Since I stopped eating beans, flares have been less recurring, so it is doing something good.

It’s no surprise that taking care of your food influences your body. And when you take a closer look at the high FODMAP’s, you’ll see immediately that a lot of things on the list are actually those things you already knew that wasn’t going to be good for you. To deal with this diet, I’d suggest you focus on the things you can eat though. I’m never a fan of the negative part, the letting go of things you like to eat part. So, have a look at the things that you can eat, and look if there are some of your favorites there as well. This might make it easier for you to come up with a plan and stick on to it.

Image by Freshcapmushrooms.com

Another note I’d like to add before heading on to the next method is that you should try to eliminate all the high-FODMAP food for a couple of weeks. After that, your system had a little reset. If you do feel that there has been a strong relieve of the symptoms, then you know it is working. Following that, you can slowly try to eat some other high-FODMAP products to see which you can and can’t eat. 

IBS and Yoga

Anxiety and IBS are going hand in hand. It’s again a bit of the chicken and the egg story, what caused an episode of which of those two? It’s not shocking that IBS can bring anxiety and depression as having problems with your intestines can create a lot of discomfort and worrying. This is why I found yoga to be a help in managing stress relief and relaxation.

Stress is a big factor when it comes down to digestion issues and therefore it’s good to do light exercises and have some things that are relaxing to you at hand to eliminate this factor. For myself, I found that doing certain yoga poses for irritable bowel syndrome brought me great relieve. I’ve composed a small sequence here for you to do at home whenever you are having a flare of IBS.

Yoga Poses IBS

In this sequence I’ll be explaining the yoga poses for Irritable Bowel Syndrome. I’ve made this sequence with Tummee, and I’ll be giving some more explanation about the sequence underneath the pictures. These yoga poses are helping with your digestive health. I’d recommend doing this sequence every day when you have a flare-up. If you’d like to have the hand-out of this sequence, click here.

  1. You start off going into Child Pose; be aware that you widen your knees a little to make sure that your belly isn’t obstructed
  2. Move into Cobra Pose
  3. Downward Facing Dog
  4. Child Pose
  5. Repeat 1-4 about 3x, you can do it longer if you have the time and energy

6. Thunderbolt Pose: stay in this pose for about 2 minutes, you can use a cushion under your knees or buttocks for a more comfortable position

7. After two minutes you put your hands on your knees and you arch the back on an exhale and bring your chest to the front on an inhale

8. Come on hands and knees to do the Cat/Cow Poses

9. Go back into Thunderbolt Pose for a couple of breaths to move into:

10. Child Pose, from here move onto your belly

11. Half Frog Pose: move your first knee into a 90° angle, after a couple of minutes you do the same with the other leg.

12. You turn yourself onto your back for the Wind Release Flow, you bring your knees to your belly on an exhale and you move them away from you on an inhale

13. Happy Baby Pose, maybe with some rocking on your spine if you also want to give your spine a little relief.

14. Optional: Pranayama: Alternate Nostril or Bhramari

15. Savasana

Conclusion

I sincerely hope that this sequence will give you the relief that I have when I’m having a flare of IBS. I just hope that whenever you read this article, that you will know that you are supported and you are not in this alone. It’s not a syndrome that will cause any other diseases, it just can be very awful to live with at times.

I do believe though that by managing your stress, you will also be able to manage your IBS symptoms. A small disclaimer that I’m not a doctor and I can’t give any medical advice nor can I make a diagnosis. I am merely here sharing those things that have helped me control my symptoms. If you are concerned about anything, it’s always advisable to visit your physician.

If you have any more suggestions, or you’d like to share your story and how you are handling with your IBS, please leave a message in the comment section below!

Nama-stay wonderful!

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18 Comments

  1. Marvin

    What a powerful article Virendra. I have a few friends that suffer from IBS and it’s way more common than I thought. Looks like Yoga and IBS would be a healing combination. I personally love Yoga and I have experienced better digestion because of it. All the abdominal twisting in poses seems to really stimulate the process, I love it. I will be recommending this article for sure

    1. Virendra

      Oooh yeah, the abdominal twists are such a great massage for your intestines :). I wouldn’t do them during a flare though as these poses might be painful when you are having an infection in your intestines.

  2. Henderson

    Tha k you for the help provided here and I like how you have explained this poses and supplementing them with good pictures. I do know a person with ibs and I never knew that it went hand in hand with anxiety. It’s very good to learn all this on your website. Yoga seems to have a solution to everyone’s problems. Gladly, I can help this person by explaining this and showing them this choice of food too. Thank you again for lending your expertise on this topic. Cheers

  3. Rodarrick

    IBS has been the major reason I don’t go for eatout unless I am inside my home because I don’t like the embarrassment of having to visit the convenience room everytime I eat something. Thanks for giving so many suggestions and list of foods. Also, yoga can really be a blessing that I have never expired. Getting to make use of yoga to get the very best out of my body to keep me from the syndrome really sounds amazing and it should be worth giving a trial too

    1. Virendra

      Hi Rodarrick, it’s sad to hear that you don’t go out for dinner anymore because of your IBS. I do have to say that it does affect a lot of areas in your life, but what helps for me is that if I don’t have symptoms and I do go out for dinner that I already know that I’m not gonna feel good about what I’ve eaten after my meal. This makes me enjoy my food, even more, I have to say :). Finding a balance is never easy of course, but when you have IBS you really should make a list for yourself what you want and don’t want to let go of (and occasionally eat those things)

  4. Emily

    I also have IBS and find that not only food, but everything needs to be in balance for my symptoms to be at their lowest. Yoga is a great way to help with IBS because it helps relieve stress as you say. I’ve been trying to do some yoga videos via youtube, but it’s great to see your snapshot of useful poses that I could memorize and try any time. Do you have a favorite youtube yoga flow that might be helpful? Thank you.

    1. Virendra

      Hi Emily and thank you for your comment. I’ve posted a link in the article as well to print out the sequence for you. I’ve got here a video for you that I also use every now and then, but I do have to say that I like my own sequence the best of course ;).

  5. Russ Green

    This really is a very in depth and thorough explanation about diet and IBS, a friend of mine suffers with this condition and I know that she has changed her diet because of her IBS but she will learn so much from this post here especially about the excellent diet tips and she has never even tried yoga, so I know she will love this, I just can’t wait to forward it to her, thank you for sharing.   

  6. Tracy

    You are spot on with this article and the major reason that triggers my stomach movement is anxiety and nervous ness. When I get nervous and anxious, I get to ease my self more often than usual and it is very embarrassing sometimes to be honest. Getting to know that yoga could really be of help seems rather strange but interesting to know of at the same time. I would really live to get over with this syndrome but all the supplements I use only help cure it for just a little period. Tha ks for providing the more natural approach to getting involved with it. Thumbs up

    1. Virendra

      Hi Tracy, IBS is something that you’ll have to live with for probably the rest of your life unless they find a cure of course. Yoga helps a lot with managing the stress you are experiencing and therefore it’s also reducing the symptoms as a lot of the complaints in IBS are elevated by stress. I hope you’ll find the methods to manage with your IBS Tracy and if there is anything else you’d like to add or share, please let me know.

  7. John

    The combination of having good diet and also taking yoga sounds like a good one to help deal with the bowel syndrome. I have seen a couple of people who have this problem before ehn I was working as an intern in a clinic. Usually, they just prescribe some kind of medicine to help deal with the problem. I think yoga is a good one and IBS is truly somehow related to anxiety. Nice post!

    1. Virendra

      Thank you for the confirmation about IBS and anxiety John :). I did take pills in the past as well when symptoms weren’t manageable anymore, so I do recommend going to your doctor if it’s not bearable anymore. But watching your food and doing yoga is a good way to prevent and control a flare-up.

  8. Dane

    Thanks for sharing this very educational post. I had no idea about how one can handle IBS and Inahve seen so many situations when and individual do not even know what to eat and not to eat. Reading through this post have given me a lot more better understanding about this problem. I’ll inform a friend of mine who is currently having that problem so he can benefit from it. Best regards.

    1. Virendra

      Hi Dane, thank you for your comment; living with IBS can be a struggle, but if you are eating well and reducing your stress, well, then you’ll find that the symptoms can be manageable.

  9. Thank you for this info. I’m not sure if I got IBS but I got the symptoms you mentioned above. I do yoga but I haven’t really explored the poses that would help. Any suggestion on when is the best time to do this poses?

    1. Virendra

      Hi Emmy,

      Thank you for your message here. If you think you have symptoms, it’s always best to check with your doctor just to be sure. These yoga poses can be done every time of the day. I just wouldn’t recommend doing them just after having a meal. But that goes for just any yoga practice that you are doing :)! If you have any more questions, feel free to ask!

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