Dealing with an irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) flare-up is uncomfortable, frustrating, and sometimes even panic-inducing. If you’re one of the millions of people impacted by IBS, you’re likely well-acquainted with IBS symptoms. Abdominal pain, irregular bowel movements, bloating, mucus in your stool, and that feeling that you just can’t complete a bowel movement can get in the way of living your life.
It is totally possible to get to the root cause of your IBS and calm down your symptoms — if you haven’t done that yet, you can book a call with me to talk about it. But sometimes even after you have your symptoms under control, IBS can stage a comeback in the form of an IBS flare-up, AKA IBS attack.
While there’s no magical one-size-fits-all remedy, there are things you can do to calm IBS flare-ups. In this article, we’ll delve into the arsenal of proven strategies to help alleviate the discomfort and inconvenience of an IBS flare.
Your IBS triggers are as unique as you are. What causes sudden symptoms in one person may have no effect at all on you. For a deep dive into what will trigger IBS, check out last week’s article on Understanding IBS Flares.
😕 Eating foods you’re sensitive to
😕 Emotional upset or psychological issues
😕 Changes in routine
😕 Hormonal changes
😕 And more…
The first step to calming your flare-up is to address what caused it in the first place. If you know that the caffeine or alcohol you had yesterday is likely the trigger, avoid them today. This goes for any food or beverage you think (or know) you’re sensitive to.
For many people, going on the low FODMAP diet can make a big difference in their IBS symptoms. The low FODMAP diet is not a long-term solution, but it can give you temporary relief and provide you with valuable information on which foods cause you problems, and which don’t.
Since IBS symptoms show up in your digestive system, you’ll probably look first to what you ate or drank that might have gotten the ball rolling again. But don’t forget to consider your stress level. The majority of people with IBS find that stress can cause or worsen their symptoms. So if you’re facing an unusual amount of stress, do what you can to reduce it or cope with it in a healthy way. We’ll cover more on dealing with holiday stress in a couple weeks.
If you’re trying to pinpoint what caused your IBS flare, look at anything you’ve done differently recently. Have you made any dietary changes? This can include changing the amount of fiber you consume or any high-fat or spicy foods you don’t normally eat.
Once you’ve done your best to identify the source of your IBS attack, the next step is taking action to calm things down.
First, let’s talk about what not to eat. During an IBS flare, you’ll want to be extra careful to avoid certain foods you’re sensitive to. If you’re not sure about your food sensitivities, I can help you find out for sure.
If you’re on the low FODMAP IBS diet, a flare is a good time to tune in and make sure you’re sticking to it. The low FODMAP diet is complicated, and it’s easy to start letting FODMAPs sneak in without noticing. During an IBS attack is a great time to pull out your low FODMAP app and make some diet changes, or check in with your health care practitioner.
Generally, it’s a good idea to avoid foods that cause gas during an IBS flare-up. You may also want to consider staying away from gluten, alcohol, caffeine, and high FODMAP foods.
If you want to know what to eat with IBS attacks, stick to simple, easy-to-digest foods. Prepare your food at home if you can so you can control exactly what goes into your digestive system.
When you’re worried about emergency trips to the bathroom, you may be nervous about putting anything in your stomach. But it’s important to stay hydrated, especially when you’re having irregular bowel movements.
Staying hydrated can help with constipation, but it can also replenish the fluids you lose with diarrhea.
Generally, I recommend staying away from beverages that contain caffeine, alcohol, carbonation, and high FODMAP ingredients.
Many people find tea helpful to calm flare ups. Some herbal teas have ingredients that can help calm your stomach. And sitting down to drink a hot, soothing beverage can lower your stress levels as well.
But be wise when choosing your tea. Not all teas are helpful during an IBS flare. You’ll want to avoid teas that are fermented, so I don’t recommend kombucha during an IBS attack. You’ll also want to avoid chamomile, chai, and dandelion tea. Not all herbal teas are helpful when it comes to IBS.
- Peppermint Tea
Peppermint tea is soothing, and has been clinically shown to provide relief from IBS symptoms. Drinking peppermint tea during an IBS flare can reduce the intestinal spasms.
- Anise Tea
Anise tea can help settle the stomach and regulate digestion. Anise’s analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties were found to improve IBS symptoms in a 2016 study.
- Turmeric Tea
Curcumin, a substance found in turmeric, may help improve IBS symptoms because of its anti-inflammatory effects.
- Carminative Tea
This blend is a traditional remedy for stomach upset and gastrointestinal issues like bloating. I’ve created a simple carminative tea recipe that I recommend to my clients.
I recommend you check with your practitioner before taking supplements. But there are a couple I often recommend to my clients to help with their IBS symptoms. You can find them in my free IBS Resource Guide.
Applying heat directly to your abdomen increases blood flow, reduces inflammation, and helps relax the muscles in the gut, reducing the pain and cramping often associated with an IBS flare.
Fill a hot water bottle with warm water, or turn a heating pad on medium or low, and place it on your abdomen for 15-20 minutes. Or you can sit in a warm bath, which offers the added bonus of soothing and calming your entire body.
Gut-directed hypnotherapy helps you create a positive relationship between your gut and brain. Gut-directed hypnotherapy helps you bring your body out of a fight-or-flight state, and helps you calm your IBS symptoms. Over 70% of IBS patients report that gut-directed hypnotherapy helped with their symptoms. Check out the Nerva app for an at-home option.
IBS flare-ups are miserable. But you can prevent many of them. When it comes to IBS and digestive health, food, supplements, and lifestyle all matter.
If you’re not sure where to start, or if you just need a little extra support, I’ve got just the thing. After working with over a thousand IBS patients, I’ve learned what works and what doesn’t. And I don’t want you to waste your time diving down every Google rabbit hole looking for relief from your IBS.
So I created a self-paced program called the IBS Relief Blueprint. Made of short videos, cheat sheets, guides, meal plans, and more, the IBS Relief Blueprint can help you address your IBS symptoms in a quick and straightforward way.