What to do if you have an IBS flare-up

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a blanket term for when you experience one or all of the following symptoms:

- bloating

- gas

- abdominal pain

- constipation

- diarrhoea

But how can I have diarrhoea and be constipated? It’s called incomplete emptying (read my blog on it here). Why do I have IBS? It is the result of poor gut health which can also be responsible for:

- depression

- anxiety

- eczema

- psoriasis

- rosacea

- poor concentration

- low energy

IBS flare-ups can often happen at the most inconvenient times like just before a long car ride or when you’re heading into a business meeting. Why is this? One of the most common triggers of IBS is stress. Certain foods can also trigger a flare-up. Without knowing what your triggers are, it can be easy to become fearful of food and get into a trap of eating the same handful of “safe” meals on repeat, which is no way to live.

While every person with IBS is different and what’s a “trigger” for one person may be totally fine for someone else, there are definite culprits that tend to be problematic for most people with IBS. Thinking ahead and knowing what to do in the moment can help you navigate flare-ups.

Here are 5 tips for navigating flare-ups:

1. Be mindful of fatty foods during flare-ups

Foods such as pizza, chips, donuts, etc., can generally aggravate the gut, but they can also make flare-ups feel even worse by causing pain and loose stools. Healthy fats, that are an essential part of a healthy diet, like avocados, nuts and seeds can also aggravate a flare-up, avoid these for a few hours when you’re experiencing symptoms. Try some foods that are gentler on the digestive system, like oatmeal and grilled chicken (not together :).

2. Caffeine and carbonated drinks can light the fire

Both caffeine and carbonated drinks can make IBS symptoms worse. If you’re about to be in a situation where you’re worried about a flare-up, it’s best to avoid these drinks. The gut is more sensitive when a stressful situation is looming. Try water, peppermint, rooibos, camomile or ginger tea instead.

3. Stay hydrated

If you are experiencing an IBS flare-up, your body is losing a lot of water, so it’s important to make sure you’re drinking enough filtered water. Hydration is important for everyone always, but if your IBS symptoms are on the constipation side of the spectrum, it’s especially important to be mindful of your intake since water helps float the log down the river. If you have loose stools you'll need to replace the lost fluids.

4. Take a few deep breaths

Stress can trigger flare-ups and make the gut more sensitive. Try meditation or take several deep breathes when you are in the midst of an IBS episode. This calms both the mind and the stomach.

5. Make sure you’re getting your eight hours of sleep

Poor sleep is directly linked to poor gut health and changes in the microbiome. It also impacts our mood which is linked via the gut-brain axis. Because of this, getting adequate sleep can help stave off flare-ups. If you’re recovering from one, that’s another time to go to bed early. Flare-ups are draining, mentally and physically; good sleep will help you recover.

But why do I have IBS?

There can be several reasons why you struggle with IBS.

- chronic stress

- inflammation

- compromised gut lining (holes in your gut allowing toxins into your blood)

- low levels of good gut bacteria (the good bacteria supports the immune system and makes nutrients)

- malabsorption (when you’re not absorbing the nutrients from the food you’re eating)

- poor diet (you eat a lot of junk foods and not enough fibre)

Michelle can help you find your root cause, with a stool test and support you to heal your gut.

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BANT Registered Nutritionist,  

Registered Nutritional Therapist CNHC & Health Coaches Academy Certified Health Coach

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© 2016 by Michelle Boehm