These 5 Healthy Lifestyle Factors May Reduce IBS Risk up to 42%, According to a New Study

You may think that irritable bowel syndrome—better known as IBS—is not preventable. While it may be partially caused by genetics, IBS can also be caused by an unhealthy lifestyle, and new research suggests ways to combat a future diagnosis.

Practicing these five healthy lifestyle habits may be able to reduce your IBS risk by up to 42%, according to a new study. While some of these factors could feel obvious to you, others may be surprising. Here’s what the science shows.

What the Study Shows

The new research published this week in Gut, a BMJ journal, studied a group of 64,268 U.K.-based adults with ages ranging from 37 to 73. The participants did not have a previous IBS diagnosis and were followed on average for 12.6 years. The study highlights how the following five health-related behaviors correlated with a lower risk of IBS: no smoking, optimal sleep (seven to nine hours per night), high level of vigorous physical activity, high “dietary quality” and moderate alcohol intake.

Engaging in just one of the five lifestyle habits listed was found to drop the likelihood of developing IBS by 21%. The risk plunges even more when you add on another one of these health habits: including two in your routine can result in a 36% lower risk, and following three to five presents a 42% lower IBS risk, according to this research.

Of course, no smoking and limited alcohol intake are indicators of a healthy lifestyle. While it’s unclear what the guidelines are for “vigorous physical activity,” activities such as walking, cycling, swimming or playing your favorite sport are proven to help regulate your bowel movements. A healthy eating pattern, especially one incorporating high-fiber foods, can also help keep you regular.

Another point is how quality sleep contributes to overall health and wellness. And if you’re sedentary, drinking alcohol before bed or relying too much on caffeine, this can cause poor sleep. Point is that all of these healthy lifestyle factors may help optimize your sleep.

The Bottom Line

It’s possible to manage your IBS risk, and this study shows that a balanced lifestyle is great for your overall health, especially your digestive health. More research is needed to show what causes IBS, so talk to your doctor if you’re concerned about your bathroom habits. Be sure to also read these 7 Totally Normal Reasons You’re Pooping a Lot, According to a Dietitian.