How to lower your risk of irritable bowel syndrome with a healthy lifestyle

How to lower your risk of irritable bowel syndrome with a healthy lifestyle
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common digestive disorder that affects millions of people worldwide. It causes symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation. The exact cause of IBS is unknown, but it may be influenced by factors such as stress, diet, and genetics. However, a new study suggests that adopting a healthy lifestyle can significantly reduce the risk of developing IBS.

The study, published online in the journal Gut, analyzed data from 64,286 people who participated in the UK Biobank, a large-scale medical database. The researchers looked at five healthy behaviors that the participants reported: not smoking, getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, eating a balanced diet, and drinking moderately.

The researchers found that the more healthy behaviors the participants had, the lower their risk of developing IBS. Specifically, having one healthy behavior was associated with a 21% lower risk, having two was associated with a 36% lower risk, and having three to five was linked to a 42% lower risk.

Among the individual behaviors, not smoking, getting at least seven hours of sleep per night, and having a high level of physical activity were the most protective against IBS. The researchers adjusted for other factors that could affect the results, such as age, sex, body mass index, and family history of IBS.

The possible explanations

The researchers suggested several possible explanations for how a healthy lifestyle could lower the risk of IBS. For example:

  • Not smoking could reduce inflammation and oxidative stress in the gut, which may trigger or worsen IBS symptoms.
  • Getting enough sleep could regulate the circadian rhythm, which affects the gut-brain axis and the intestinal motility, which may influence IBS symptoms.
  • Exercising regularly could improve blood flow and oxygen delivery to the gut, which may enhance the gut barrier function and the gut microbiota, which may modulate IBS symptoms.
  • Eating a balanced diet could provide adequate nutrients and fiber, which may support the gut health and the gut microbiota, which may affect IBS symptoms.
  • Drinking moderately could avoid the negative effects of alcohol on the gut, such as inflammation, dysbiosis, and leaky gut, which may contribute to IBS symptoms.

The implications and limitations

The study has important implications for the prevention and management of IBS, as it suggests that simple lifestyle changes can make a big difference. The researchers recommended that people who are at risk of or suffer from IBS should adopt a healthy lifestyle, as it may not only lower their risk of developing the condition, but also improve their overall health and well-being.

However, the study also has some limitations, such as:

  • It was an observational study, which cannot prove causation, only correlation. There may be other factors that influence the relationship between lifestyle and IBS risk, such as genetics, environment, and medication use.
  • It relied on self-reported data, which may be inaccurate or incomplete. The participants may have overestimated or underestimated their lifestyle behaviors, or changed them over time.
  • It involved mostly older adults, who may have different lifestyles and IBS risk factors than younger people. The findings may not be generalizable to other age groups or populations.

Therefore, more research is needed to confirm and explain the findings, and to explore the optimal combination and dose of healthy behaviors for preventing and treating IBS.