Physical Activity Improves Symptoms in Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) include abdominal discomfort, bloating, mucous in the stools, intestinal cramping and irregular bowel habits (Nichols & Faas, 2009). IBS is typically a gut motility problem involving either constipation or diarrhoea, and/or fluctuations between these two extremes (Nichols & Faas, 2009). Fever, intestinal inflammation (moderate to high grade) and bleeding is not characteristic of IBS (Nichols & Faas, 2009) . Nevertheless, low grade, subclinical inflammation plagues numerous individuals diagnosed with IBS, which is believed to be driven by specific foodstuffs that trigger an inflammatory response (Nichols & Faas, 2009). For this reason, it is of little surprise that IBS interferes with daily life.

A recent study, conducted in Sweden, by Johannesson, Simrén, Strid, Bajor and Sadik (2011) suggested that people diagnosed with IBS can experience a reduction in symptoms by way of increasing the frequency and intensity by which they exercise (See also: Heinman, Lishnak & Trojian, 2008). Of the 75 IBS subjects completing the foregoing study, individuals who exercised for 20 to 30 minutes, 3 to 5 times per week at a moderate intensity were more likely to observe an improvement in symptoms compared to individuals who maintained their current lifestyle. At the beginning of the study and three months thereafter, subjects were asked to rate the IBS symptoms they were currently experiencing. Of the 37 women randomly assigned to the exercise group, symptom scores declined by 51 points following a three month increase in exercise frequency and intensity. However women (38) randomly assigned to control (unchanged lifestyle) reported a 5 point decline in symptoms.

Heinman, D.L., Lishnak, T.S & Trojian, T.H. (2008). Irritable Bowel Syndrome in Athletes and Exercise. Current Sports Medicine Report, 7, 2, 100-103.

Johannesson, E., Simrén, M., Strid, H., Bajor, A & Sadik R. (2011). Physical Activity Improves Symptoms in Irritable Bowel Syndrome: A Randomized Controlled Trial. American Journal of Gastroenterology, 106, 5, 915-922.

Nichols, W & Faas, N. (2009). Optimal Digestive Health. Vermont: Healing Arts Press.

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