Sunday, April 14, 2024

Reduce your chances of getting upset stomach problems by living a healthy lifestyle, according to a recent study

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Living a healthy lifestyle can significantly lower the chances of experiencing irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), according to a recent study. The research suggests that for adults in their midlife and beyond, being physically active, getting enough sleep, maintaining a quality diet, moderating alcohol intake, and avoiding smoking can reduce the risk of developing IBS by up to 42%. IBS can bring about abdominal pain, bloating, and irregular bowel habits, causing discomfort such as cramping, gas, diarrhea, or constipation. The study, conducted in Hong Kong, observed that the more healthy lifestyle behaviors people followed, the greater the protection against IBS. Those who adopted one behavior had a 21% lower risk, while those with two behaviors had a 36% lower risk. Participants engaging in three to five of these behaviors showed a significant 42% lower risk of developing IBS symptoms.

“This means that making simple changes in your daily habits can help you avoid getting a stomach problem called IBS,” said Vincent Chi-ho Chung, a professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong’s Jockey Club School of Public Health and Primary Care. “Our study is one of the first big studies to show that doing things like exercising, eating well, drinking moderately, getting enough sleep, and not smoking can really lower the chances of getting IBS.”

Most reports about IBS usually talk about figuring out and treating the problem, not about stopping it from happening, he added.

Stopping the tummy trouble
Other studies have already shown that doing things like not exercising enough or eating unhealthy foods can make you more likely to get IBS. The researchers in this study wanted to see if doing a bunch of healthy things together could keep IBS away.

They looked at 64,268 people aged 37 to 73 who didn’t have IBS before. They checked a big health database called the UK Biobank for 12.6 years. In that time, 961 people (1.5%) got IBS, and the ones who didn’t do any of the healthy things were most likely to get it.

The healthy things they checked were exercising a lot, eating a good mix of foods every day, not drinking too much alcohol (5 to 15 grams a day), sleeping seven to nine hours each night, and never smoking.

When the research team looked at different behaviors, they discovered that getting a good amount of sleep each night was the most effective in lowering the chances of IBS, according to Chung. People who sleep well have a 27% lower risk of getting the disorder compared to those who don’t. Doing more intense physical activities decreased the risk by 17%, and not smoking lowered it by 14%.

Surprisingly, the researchers found that moderate alcohol consumption, when combined with the other healthy habits, led to a greater reduction in the risk of IBS compared to completely avoiding alcohol. Chung said this unexpected result needs more investigation.

Chung also emphasized that individuals should consider their own health conditions when applying these findings to daily life. For instance, if someone chooses not to drink alcohol, it can still have benefits, and older adults can opt for moderate physical activity instead of vigorous exercise.

The research team grouped people based on the number of habits they followed. Those who adopted three to five habits were grouped together to have more data for analysis. Most in this group were younger females, with lower BMI, and were less likely to have family members with IBS, according to the researchers.

Dr. Beverley Greenwood-Van Meerveld, a professor at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, emphasized the importance of studying ways to prevent IBS. She mentioned that lifestyle choices seem to play a big role in developing IBS, especially among women.

The study didn’t consider stress reduction as part of the observed behaviors, which surprised Greenwood-Van Meerveld. Stress has been studied as a significant factor in IBS, and she also expressed concern about the limited age group in the study, as IBS often starts in early adulthood, but participants in this study had an average age of 55.

Dr. Margaret Heitkemper from the University of Washington, not involved in the study, noted that while the measures are limited, the large sample size provides valuable insights into what might reduce the chances of IBS in middle-aged and older adults. She pointed out that IBS is a complex condition, and there could be other factors at play.

Take care of your sleep and gut
More research is needed to understand how good sleep can prevent IBS, according to experts. They suggest that using a sleep lab would be better than relying on self-reported sleep at home. One researcher, Heitkemper, who focuses on sleep in women with IBS, mentioned the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

According to Heitkemper, the study showed that sticking to a healthy routine is crucial. Following simple sleep tips like avoiding electronics before bedtime and cutting down on caffeine in the evening can improve the quality of your sleep.

Protect your gut health, advised Greenwood-Van Meerveld. She suggests eating well and managing stress with daily tools like meditation. Remember, your gut health is essential and should not be ignored.

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