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Healthy Living Can Prevent Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Posted February 21, 2024

Healthy Living Can Prevent Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Folks who follow a healthy lifestyle are less likely to wind up with a case of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a new study claims.

The more healthy behaviors in which a person regularly engaged, the lower their risk of IBS, researchers reported Feb. 20 in the journal Gut.

Not smoking, vigorous exercise and getting enough sleep in particular were strongly associated with keeping IBS at bay, they noted.

“Although lifestyle modification is recommended as a means of managing IBS symptoms, its potential role in preventing the onset of the condition has not been given due attention,” noted the research team led by Vincent Chi-ho Chung, an associate proessor with the Jockey Club School of Public Health and Primary Care at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

IBS is characterized by abdominal pain, bloating and abnormal bowel movements, researchers said in background notes. It is thought to affect up to 1 in every 10 people around the world.

For the study, researchers focused on five healthy behaviors: never smoking, getting at least 7 hours of sleep each night, a high level of vigorous exercise every week, a high-quality balanced diet and moderate alcohol intake.

They tracked more than 64,000 people living in the United Kingdom to see if these behaviors in any way influenced IBS risk.

They found that people who adopted one of those behaviors had a 21% lower risk, while two were associated with a 36% lower risk, and three to five with a 42% lower risk.

Three behaviors on their own were also associated with lower IBS risk: never smoking (14% lower), high levels of vigorous exercise (17% lower) and good sleep (27% lower).

These associations held even after accounting for other factors that could potentially influence development of IBS, the researchers said.

No one's sure what causes IBS, and this study wasn't designed to discover that, the researchers noted.

“Our findings underscore the value of lifestyle modification in the primary prevention of IBS and suggest that healthy lifestyle choices could significantly attenuate the effects of [causative] factors on the incidence of IBS,” the researchers concluded in a journal news release.

More information

Johns Hopkins Medicine has more about IBS.

SOURCE: BMJ, news release, Feb. 20, 2024

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