Those who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) know that the condition is unpredictable — flare-ups can happen even when you’ve eaten clean all week and steered clear of your biggest IBS triggers. And while making adjustments to your diet can be a big help, stress and anxiety can throw your gut completely off balance. But there are some simple things you can do to ease the pain of a flare-up so it doesn’t get in the way of your daily life.
Here’s what to do if you’re experiencing a sudden bout of IBS with diarrhea, constipation, cramping, bloating, pain and gas. Combining a few of these tips can help you weather a particularly bad storm with ease.
- Stick to Trusted Foods — When you feel irritation in the gut, it’s important that you immediately stop consuming any potential trigger foods. Easier said than done, right? If you don’t know what specifically is causing your IBS flare-ups, consider trying an elimination diet, such as the low-FODMAP diet. (What is FODMAP, you ask? Read this guide to find out.) Some of the most common triggers include alcohol, artificial sweeteners, garlic, onions, wheat and dairy. We know it can be tough, but make sure you’re staying well-hydrated while you’re recouping from an IBS flare-up, as your body needs the hydration to recover.
- Eliminate Stress — Next to your diet, your mental state is one of your most likely IBS triggers. If you’ve been stressed out or overwhelmed, finding healthy ways to blow off some steam can be the key to relief from IBS. Some of the best ways to ease stress and anxiety include meditation, yoga and spending time with friends. Soaking in the bathtub or taking a self-care day may help, too. We know this isn’t always possible, but try your best to avoid constricting clothing or going into any environment that could cause you to feel stressed or anxious, as this could accelerate symptoms and cause them to linger for longer.
- Get as Comfortable as Possible — Some of the most useful coping mechanisms for people with IBS are the simplest. Staying home, curling up with a heating pad and wearing your comfiest pajamas can be a good way to ride out a particularly bad flare-up. Not only will these activities help eliminate stress, they’ll also help eliminate pain and discomfort while you let the bout pass.
- Try Symptom-Relieving Medications — Occasionally using over-the-counter medications can help with symptoms of IBS, but it’s not something you want to rely on for long-term relief. Most people are able to mitigate symptoms and boost their quality of life simply by making lifestyle adjustments, such as changing their diet (it’s easy with our low-FODMAP meal delivery options) and managing stress. However, on those especially tough days, medication can help. For those who suffer from IBS with diarrhea, using over-the-counter anti-diarrheal (such as loperamide) or bile acid binders can help with symptoms. Some studies show that taking probiotics can also help with distension and bloating.
- Don’t Forget to Exercise — When we feel crummy, the last thing we want to do is hop on the treadmill or head to spin class. But the truth is that studies show that exercise is surprisingly beneficial for sufferers of IBS. Logging a workout can raise endorphins and decrease stress, which can help minimize your symptoms throughout the day. The key is to make sure you do the right kinds of exercises. Skip anything that might intensify nausea or stomach pain, such as jumping rope or burpees, and stick to low-impact movements.
Even if you’ve found the perfect IBS diet plan, you should still know how to deal with an IBS flare-up just in case you have a bad day. Luckily, there are a few tried and true methods you can use to ease the pain so you can get through a flare-up without your IBS slowing you down or holding you back.