Exercise Improves Irritable Bowel Syndrome

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Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a bowel disorder characterized by chronic abdominal pain, discomfort, bloating, and alteration of bowel habits. 

Currently, there is no cure for IBS.  Medicines (such as laxatives, antispasmodics, antidepressants, prokinetics and anti-gas) are usually given to relieve the symptoms of IBS, but only 30% of patients respond to current treatment. 

However, a study, reported online January 4th in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, found that individuals who exercised had better chance of improvements in cramps, bloating, constipation and diarrhea. 

The study involved 102 adults who were diagnosed with IBS, but were not active at the onset.  Participants in the exercise group were told to get 20 to 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous exercise (such as brisk walking or biking) on 3-5 days per week for 12 weeks, while the rest of the patients stuck with their normal lifestyle habits. 

After three months, 43% of the exercisers showed a clinically significant improvement in their symptoms, compared with a quarter of the participants who maintained their normal lifestyle. 

The exercise group was also less likely to experience worsening of symptoms; 8% in the exercise group had a clinically significant increase in symptoms compared with 23% of in the control group. 

Exercise may be helpful for several reasons. Studies have shown exercise can relieve gas and constipation.  Regular exercise may also improve the nervous and hormonal systems that act on the digestive tract. 

The investigator concluded that for people who are currently less-than-active, even a moderate increase in exercise may curb irritable bowel symptoms.  Individuals who remain inactive should expect more symptoms. 

Source: Am J Gastroenterol. Posted online January 4, 2011. Abstract 

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