Healthy Lifestyle Behaviors Can Lower the Risk of IBS


Some healthy lifestyle habits may significantly reduce a person’s likelihood of developing IBS (irritable bowel syndrome).

A recent study published in the BMJ journal Gut found that IBS risk could be cut by up to 42 percent if a participant adhered to three to five behaviors that boost overall well-being: never smoking, good sleep, enough exercise, a balanced diet, and moderate alcohol consumption (up to one drink daily or a maximum of 5 to 15 grams of alcohol per day). The first three behaviors in particular were linked with keeping the condition at bay.

”In previous studies, some lifestyle factors, including smoking, sleeping, physical activity, diet, and alcohol consumption were found to be independently associated with IBS,” says a coauthor of the research, Irene XY Wu, PhD, a professor at Xiangya School of Public Health at Central South University in China. “To our knowledge, this is one of the first prospective cohort studies to confirm the association of combinations of healthy lifestyle behaviors with lower incidence of IBS.”

Commonsense Health Practices Keep IBS at Bay

In the study, Dr. Wu and her team highlighted a range of previously published research spotlighting the potential benefits of lifestyle factors in regard to IBS.

One prior paper, for example, published in the Saudi Journal of Gastroenterology

and based on analysis of 36 prior investigations, concluded that the prevalence of sleep disorders was higher with IBS than in healthy subjects, and that it might contribute to disease development.

As detailed in a clinical practice update, the American Gastroenterological Association

reviewed how diet modification may help with IBS treatment. Research published in 2021 in Tobacco Induced Diseases

noted that subjects who quit smoking had a 27 percent decrease in digestive symptoms associated with IBS compared with those who continued to smoke.

This large latest study tracked outcomes in 64,268 adults in the United Kingdom, ranging in age from 37 to 73 — 55 percent of whom were female. Participants had no IBS diagnosis at baseline. They were enrolled between 2006 and 2010 and followed up until 2022.

Patients self-reported information on healthy habits, including whether they smoked, slept at least seven hours a night, drank a moderate amount of alcohol, pursued a high level of vigorous physical activity every week, and maintained a high-quality balanced diet every day.


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