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Exercise Cuts Irritable Bowel, Other Gut Woes — an article on the Smart Living Network
December 13, 2008 at 11:22 AMComments: 0 Faves: 0

Exercise Cuts Irritable Bowel, Other Gut Woes


Definition of Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a common gastrointestinal disorder involving regular symptoms of abdominal pain, gut contractions, and bowel habit changes that range in severity over the years. Symptoms that are associated with irritable bowel syndrome include: acute diarrhea, bloating, constipation, fever, mucus in stools, and vomiting. While irritable bowel syndrome can be difficult to live with, researchers have found that there are fewer symptoms of the condition and less physical pain if people exercise.

Focusing on Wellness

In a large weight loss study, led by researchers from the University of Minnesota, one thousand obese and overweight men and women took part in a study asking participants about their gut symptoms. The study found that the heaviest people at the end of the study reported the most abdominal pain and diarrhea. They also found that a healthy diet with a low fat and high fruit and fiber intake and exercise were linked to fewer gastrointestinal symptoms. With more analysis, one factor stood out as the most important predictor of gut related symptoms: exercise. This data helped to confirm that exercise is not only healthy, but may also reduce the experience of gastrointestinal symptoms.

Exercise to Feel Better

Exercise has been shown to improve a person's mood through the release of "happiness chemicals" known as endorphins. Endorphins are neurotransmitters that are found in the brain and have pain relieving properties similar to morphine. Continuous exercise over an extended period of time contributes to an increased production and release of endorphins, resulting in a sense of euphoria. The result of general physical activity can help to increase the activity of the gastrointestinal tract. Research is still being done to see if exercise really helps to make irritable bowels less irritated or if it just makes people feel better.

Benefits and Types of Exercise

Getting regular, vigorous exercise may help reduce tension and make a person's bowels more regular. Sustained low level exercise for thirty minutes a day, three or more days a week is enough to help people's bowels. Exercise helps to stimulate the rhythmic contractions of the intestines, making them function more normally. During exercise, the bowel begins to settle down. If regular exercise is used and physical fitness or conditioning develops, the bowel may even begin to relax even during non exercise periods. Some of the more common, recommended exercises are:

  • Swimming
  • Jogging
  • Brisk Walking
  • Exercise equipment, such as an elliptical trainer
  • Stretching
  • Yoga

Other Treatments for Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Further recommendations to help treat the effects of irritable bowel syndrome include watching a person's diet by avoiding gas-producing foods and adding fiber to the diet to control the effects of diarrhea or constipation. Eating appropriately and avoiding problem foods is crucial to keep symptoms from recurring. Stress relaxation techniques are also crucial. Regular fitness workouts are an essential part of any stress management program as learning how to manage the onset of a stressful situation may help a person learn to take better control of the factors that trigger the condition.


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