- IBS affects between 25 and 45 million people in the US; around 2 out of 3 are women
- Not smoking and a high level of vigorous physical activity were found to help
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Three lifestyle tricks can help you beat irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a study suggests.
Researchers in China found that not smoking, a high level of vigorous physical activity and at least seven hours of sleep a night help keep the disease at bay.
IBS, or irritable bowel syndrome, is a common disorder that causes cramps, abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation. It affects between 25 and 45 million people in the United States.
The study, published in the journal Intestineanalyzed the effect of five well-known healthy behaviors on the risk of suffering from the disease.
Habits included never smoking, sleeping at least seven hours each night, a high level of vigorous physical activity each week, a high-quality balanced diet each day, and moderate alcohol intake.
Researchers in China found that not smoking, a high level of vigorous physical activity and getting enough sleep help keep the disease at bay.
Participants included 64,286 people with an average age of 55 years, who were monitored for an average of 12.5 years.
They had completed at least two questionnaires on 24 diets.
During the study period, about 961 volunteers developed IBS, about 1.5 percent of the participants.
For participants to be considered to have a high level of vigorous physical activity, they had to do moderate physical activity for 150 minutes or more per week (such as jogging or cycling), or vigorous physical activity for 75 minutes or more per week. .
After taking other factors into account, the researchers determined that the greater the number of healthy behaviors, the lower the risk of IBS.
One behavior was associated with a 21 percent lower risk, while two were associated with a 36 percent lower risk; and three to five were associated with a 42 percent lower risk.
Three of the behaviors were independently associated with a lower risk of IBS: never smoke (14 percent lower); high level of physical activity (17 percent less); and a good night’s sleep (27 percent less).
These associations persisted regardless of age, sex, employment status, residential area, intestinal infection, family history of IBS, or other lifestyle choices.
Researchers suggested that not smoking may help because smoking delays the emptying of food from the stomach, which can lead to bloating and constipation.
Meanwhile, sleep disturbances can cause an increase in inflammatory substances that can trigger irritable bowel syndrome.
One of the many benefits of exercise is that it reduces intestinal inflammation and regulates the gut microbiota, which researchers say could explain the underlying mechanism of its effect on reducing the risk of irritable bowel syndrome.
However, the researchers caution that because the study was observational, other factors may still be at play and therefore it cannot be firmly concluded that a lack of these healthy behaviors causes IBS.