How to Manage and Prevent IBS Flare Ups
I’m sure you’re well acquainted with an IBS flare up…you’re going about your week, happy that everything is fine and your gut is calm. Then, it suddenly decides to play up and you have no idea why. You’re struck down with pain, bloating, unhappy bowels and you just can’t focus on what you’re meant to be doing.
When this happens, all you can think about is how to reduce these symptoms and make that flare up go away. This post will give you some top tips to help calm an unhappy gut when a flare up happens. You’ll also find out how to try and identify triggers so that you can reduce the number of flare ups that happen long term.
IBS FLARE UP MANAGEMENT TIPS
1. HERBAL THERAPIES
It can be so tempting to reach for painkillers, laxatives or anti-diarrhea medication when a flare up strikes. You want it gone, and you want it gone fast. However, these medications can do so much more damage to your gut long term that I really encourage you to limit your use of them as much as possible. I speak from experience..I spent years taking painkillers and laxatives for my IBS, and it ended up screwing my gut up so much more. So, please learn from my silly mistakes and try to opt for herbal remedies as much as you can.
Peppermint oil is a great option for managing a flare up, as it can reduce inflammation and impact your gut bacteria. This means it can help reduce stomach pain, gas, bloating and diarrhea. You can buy it in capsule form, so it’s easy to take!
IBS friendly teas are also really helpful. Not only can it be soothing for your stomach to have a warm tea, but the properties in some teas can really help ease your symptoms. Again, peppermint is a great option, for all the reasons above, as well as green tea. Anise and fennel have also been shown to help relieve constipation.
A hot water bottle or heat pack can really help to reduce any stomach cramps you’re having. It’s soothing psychologically but can also actually reduce the pain. It works by relaxing the muscles in your gut, so will reduce the pain you’re feeling, but also the diarrhea and constipation that’s resulted. A hot water bottle is a more gentle option, that you can leave on when you sleep, whereas a heat pack is a good idea if you want something more intense.
3. TRY A PROBIOTIC
Probiotics are basically the good bacteria that live in your gut. Your gut is filled with lots of bacteria (your micro-biome) and having a good balance between all these different bacteria will set you up for optimal health. Sometimes, the good bacteria can become depleted and the bad bacteria can grow, and take over. This is called gut dysbiosis and can cause inflammation and a lot of IBS symptoms.
Taking a probiotic supplement (in food or pill/powder form) can help to boost the numbers of good bacteria in your gut, reverse that dysbiosis that may be causing symptoms, and help promote a balances micro-biome.
Probiotics have been shown to reduce bloating and gas, reduce stomach pain, normalize bowel movements and reduce IBS symptoms in general. You can get probiotics from eating fermented foods, such as sauerkraut and kimchi, or you can take them in supplement form. If you need any help in navigating probiotics and working out which ones to take, just get in touch. One thing that’s important to remember about probiotics is that you won’t see an immediate effect. They take a bit of time to work, so I would take them for at least a month before assessing any improvements.
4. TRY TO RELAX
Easier said than done, I know, but it really does work. I remember when people used to tell me to relax and I used to brush them off and think it would have absolutely no impact. However, IBS is very much a stress-sensitive condition. This means that stress can actually trigger flare ups and reducing that stress can therefore reduce the flare ups.
So, although relaxing is one of the hardest things to do when you’re in pain and stressing about your bloated belly, give it a try. This can mean taking ten minutes to do a guided meditation, some deep breathing, going to a yoga class, calling a friend, watching a funny film, taking a bath or going out for a walk in nature.
Any one of these things can calm your mind and reduce your stress. What this will do is switch your body into ‘rest and digest’ mode, which will allow it to start digesting your food properly, and therefore reducing your symptoms.
If you need more help with reducing your stress, there are alternative therapies you can try that have been proven to help with IBS. The main ones that can help are Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Gut-Directed Hypnotherapy.
PREVENTING IBS FLARE UPS
Obviously, when you’re having a flare up, the first thing you want to think about is reducing the symptoms you are experiencing right now. You’re thinking about the short term, not the long term. However, once you’ve tried some of the tips above and you’ve reduced your symptoms to a bearable level, you can look at this flareup as an opportunity to learn about your body and to prevent another one in the future.
So often, we have these flare ups and are so caught up in making the symptoms go away, that we don’t give much thought to what caused them in the first place. Or, we do the opposite and we keep going over and over what could have caused the flare up, driving ourselves crazy in the process.
So, how do we understand what’s causing our flare ups?
1. FOOD + FEELINGS DIARY
The absolutely first thing I’d advise you to do is start a food diary right now. Start recording everything you’re eating, your stress levels, sleep, exercise and also the symptoms you’re experiencing. The first step to figuring out what’s triggering your symptoms is writing everything down and having a record of it. It’s only then, when you’re got it all recorded, that you can start identifying patterns and potential causes. If you get my newsletter, use the one that I sent you! If not, let me know and I can send you my ready made one.
2. CONSIDER TRYING THE LOW FODMAP DIET
FODMAPs are groups of carbohydrates in certain foods that have been shown to trigger IBS symptoms and the low FODMAP Diet has been proven to help about 75% of people with IBS to manage their symptoms. It’s not a diet for life. It involves eliminating all FODMAPs for a few weeks, then gradually adding each group back in to work out which foods are triggering your IBS symptoms. It takes about 3 months of commitment, but has an incredible impact on your life. Figuring out the foods that trigger your symptoms can give you the knowledge and control to avoid flare ups, which is life changing.
If you’re experiencing an IBS flare up, try these tips:
Try a probiotic
Reduce your stress
To work out your triggers and prevent future flare ups, look into:
Starting a food and feeling diary (sign up below to grab mine)
Trying the low FODMAP Diet
I hope you’ve found at least one helpful nugget in this post either about managing flare ups in the short term, or preventing them in the long term. Which tip was the most useful to you? Let me know in the comments below
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this and I hope it’s helped you on your journey to taking control of your gut, eating well and living your life.