A healthy lifestyle could keep bowel inflammation at bay

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New research published in the journal Gut has revealed that embracing a healthy lifestyle can significantly reduce the risk of developing irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

IBS is a common condition that affects up to 10% of people worldwide, causing symptoms like abdominal pain, bloating, and changes in bowel habits.

The exact cause of IBS is still a bit of a mystery, but it’s believed that how the gut and brain interact plays a big role.

In the past, studies have shown that certain lifestyle choices might increase the risk of getting IBS. This new study wanted to see if, on the flip side, a combination of healthy habits could help prevent the condition.

To do this, researchers looked at data from middle-aged participants of the U.K. Biobank, focusing on five key healthy behaviors: not smoking, sleeping at least seven hours a night, engaging in vigorous physical activity, eating a balanced diet, and moderating alcohol intake.

Out of the 64,286 people included in the final analysis, only 1.5% developed IBS over an average follow-up period of just over 12.5 years. Interestingly, the fewer healthy behaviors people reported, the higher their risk of IBS.

For instance, adopting just one of these healthy habits was linked to a 21% lower risk of IBS, while two habits led to a 36% lower risk. Embracing three to five of these healthy behaviors could reduce the risk by 42%.

Looking closer, three specific habits were particularly effective at lowering the risk of IBS on their own: not smoking cut the risk by 14%, a high level of physical activity by 17%, and getting enough sleep by 27%.

These findings held up even after adjusting for other factors like age, sex, job status, where someone lived, past gut infections, family history of IBS, and other lifestyle choices.

It’s important to note, though, that this study was observational. That means it can’t prove for sure that these healthy habits were the cause of the lower IBS risk, especially since the data relied on people’s own reports of their behaviors, which might not always be spot-on.

Plus, the study mainly involved older adults, so it’s unclear if the same findings would apply to younger people. And it didn’t track any changes in lifestyle habits over the study period.

Despite these limitations, the researchers highlight that while lifestyle changes are often suggested for managing IBS symptoms, their potential to actually prevent IBS hasn’t received much attention.

Their study suggests that making healthy lifestyle choices could play a crucial role in preventing IBS, highlighting the importance of lifestyle modifications not just for managing symptoms, but also as a preventive measure against developing the condition.

This adds to the growing evidence that how we live our lives can have a significant impact on our gut health and overall wellbeing.

If you care about wellness, please read studies about how ultra-processed foods and red meat influence your longevity, and why seafood may boost healthy aging.

For more information about wellness, please see recent studies that olive oil may help you live longer, and vitamin D could help lower the risk of autoimmune diseases.

The research findings can be found in Gut.

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