Yoga for IBS: An Effective Alternative to the Low FODMAP Diet?

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In this installment from my ‘Ask Me Anything’ series, which you can find on my social media channels, I delve into the topic of yoga and IBS.

“Can yoga really improve IBS? I heard it can stand in for low fodmap diet even?”

Believe it or not, yoga has been shown in randomized controlled trials to help alleviate IBS symptoms. And for some people, the benefits are quite extreme, being as effective as diet and drug interventions. For others, not so much.

IBS is one of those conditions where we don’t really know what causes it. There’s no definitive causal mechanism that we can point our finger at and intervene. Instead, it’s a potpourri of symptoms that we refer collectively to as IBS.

Yoga is believed to be of benefit primarily because it helps calm the nervous system and increase parasympathetic tone, which goes a long way towards improving how the gut functions. Stress and chronic sympathetic activation are powerful triggers of IBS symptoms. The exercise and breath work components of yoga are also important for regulating motility and comfort.

The only way to know if you are someone who benefits from yoga is to try it out. Whether you do or don’t benefit, I personally wouldn’t consider it a replacement for dietary changes. There’s no reason to think that they wouldn’t have additive or synergistic benefits, so I’d definitely play with your diet in addition to any lifestyle changes I make.

The low FODMAP diet targets fermentable carbohydrates that can trigger IBS symptoms. It’s a great option for people with IBS and worth trying out, but it can be heavily restrictive. I’d just use it as a starting point and do some self-experimentation to see what foods trigger symptoms for you, since every case of IBS is going to be unique even if there is overlap between them.

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