IBS Flare-ups: How to Identify and Alleviate Symptoms

IBS Flare-ups: How to Identify and Alleviate Symptoms

It’s normal to have digestive trouble occasionally.

However, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is different.

Anyone with IBS knows that flare-ups are the worst – they can be mentally and physically draining. 

IBS flare-ups come with pain and discomfort, and most times, people with IBS worry that an attack may occur while they are out in public or panic about whether there is a bathroom nearby.

Fortunately, there are several techniques and strategies to alleviate symptoms of attack or control your flare-ups.

But first, let us know everything you need to know about IBS and identify each sign.

What is IBS?

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a painful gastrointestinal condition in which, during flare-ups, the patient experiences frequent bloating, stomach cramping, constipation, or diarrhea.

The abdominal pain comes again and again, but there are no signs of damage in your gastrointestinal system, nor make it more likely to suffer from colon cancer.

IBS flare-ups may last for a few hours to a few months.

Unfortunately, no test to exactly diagnose you with IBS.

Physicians would likely perform a physical examination, check your medical history, and test whether you have other abdominal conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) or celiac disease.

Who Typically Gets IBS?

IBS occurs more in women than men, and around 15% of the world population suffers from it. In the United States, about 25 to 45 million people suffer from IBS. This condition happens to persons under 50, but symptoms typically occur in their 20s or 30s.

What Does It Feel Like to Have IBS?

One with IBS experiences belly pain and frequent bowel habits like diarrhea, constipation, or both. You may also experience frequent cramps or feel like your bowel movement is not finished.

People with IBS feel gassy and bloated. They may need to go to the bathroom frequently when flare-ups occur. For women, this symptom usually happens during their menstrual period. But heating pads may help them during these days.

What Causes IBS?

The exact cause of IBS is not known. However, it is linked with the food passing through your digestive tract too slowly or too quickly, a family history of IBS, and oversensitive nerves in your gut.

Contrary to others’ beliefs, stress does not cause IBS flare-ups. Stress, however, triggers symptoms because there is a connection between your digestive tract and your brain. IBS is a lifelong condition. So, while the cause and its cure are unknown, diet can often help ease the symptoms of this disease.

How does IBS affect One’s Life?

It’s uncomfortable to have an IBS. You may be anxious about eating a particular food because it may cause a flare-up, worries whether there’s a bathroom nearby, or nervous that IBS attacks happen at a bad time, like when you’re at work, commuting, or any situation that requires your presence.

In severe cases, people with IBS are hesitant to eat out, socialize, or even see a movie. It may help you, though, to map out bathrooms before you go to any place.

How to Identify Whether You Have IBS?

Identifying the symptom of IBS can reduce the frequency of flare-ups and improve your quality of life. Here are the signs or symptoms of IBS:

1.   Abdominal Pain

Abdominal pain or cramp is the most common sign of IBS. The pain typically occurs either in the entire abdomen or lower abdomen. Such abdominal discomfort may only be reduced after a bowel movement. A diet low in FODMAPS or carbohydrates may decrease the symptom and pain.

2.   Constipation

Constipation is prevalent in IBS. However, constipation that is not associated with abdominal pain is not IBS. Constipation as a symptom of IBS must come with pain and discomfort but can be reduced with bowel movements.

3.   Diarrhea

Diarrhea-predominant IBS can affect one-third of the people with IBS. A study of 200 adults has found that people with Diarrhea-predominant IBS have an average of 12 bowel movements a week. They tend to have watery and loose bowels. Stools may also have mucus.

4.   Gas and Bloating

One who has an IBS may produce more gas in the digestive tract. This can also lead to bloating, which makes flare-ups very uncomfortable. Bloating is also one of the most persistent symptoms of the disorder. To reduce gas and bloating, avoid FODMAPs and lactose.

5.   Food Intolerance

As mentioned, there’s no exact cause of IBS. However, food may trigger IBS symptoms. As such, many people avoid IBS flare-ups. Some trigger foods among IBS patients are FODMAPs, lactose, and caffeine.

6.   Sleepless and Fatigue

The intensity of IBS flare-ups may cause sleepless nights and fatigue. These symptoms may affect a person’s efficiency at work, social interactions, and daily routines. Unfortunately, sleeplessness and fatigue may cause even more severe gastrointestinal symptoms.

7.   Depression and Anxiety

IBS is also associated with mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. It’s unclear whether these mental health conditions trigger IBS or they are merely an expression of mental stress. Whichever comes first, one thing is for sure – one with IBS is most likely to suffer from depression and anxiety.

How to Alleviate Symptoms of IBS?

IBS flare-ups are unpredictable. Hence, it’s essential to know the symptom and triggers of IBS. Since we have already tackled the signs of IBS, it’s time to see how you can alleviate your condition.

Here are some tips to ease your symptoms:

1.   Hydrate Yourself More

Drink at least 8 to 10 cups of water daily to help your digestive system function properly. It will also reduce IBS flare-ups and other gastrointestinal problems. Avoid trigger beverages like alcohol, tea, coffee, and soda. Carbonated drinks cause gas, and caffeinated drinks and alcohol can cause diarrhea.

2.   Drink IBS-Friendly Teas

Sipping IBS-friendly teas can be soothing. It can help alleviate cramps and painful spasms. These beverages don’t contain ingredients that may trigger your symptoms. IBS-friendly teas include peppermint, white, green, and black tea.

3.   Change Your Diet

Avoid FODMAP foods because they are trigger foods. Stay away from lactose and dairy products, fructans (onion, wheat, rye, garlic, and broccoli), fructose (mango, watermelon, honey, and apples), polyols (sugar alcohols like peaches, plums, nectarine, cauliflower, and mushroom).

Instead, eat gluten-free grains, cooked vegetables, nuts, and seeds (sunflower, almond, and flax seed). Other safe choices include carrots, spinach, zucchini, quinoa, oat, and maple syrup. These foods are non-inflammatory and will help reduce pain and bloating.

4.   Avoid stress

Stress may trigger IBS flare-ups and often triggers more gut-related disorders. Find ways to eliminate stress by trying yoga, mindfulness meditation, hypnotherapy, or just taking at least a 30-minute walk every day.

5.   Exercise

Exercise will help your body in so many ways. If you frequently experience IBS flare-ups, exercise can help you calm, and relax, stimulate normal intestinal movement, and reduces stress.

6.   Heat Therapy

Heat Therapy is another effective way to reduce IBS symptoms. Get your warm heating pad on your abdomen for about 15 minutes. It will help your stomach readjust and calm down. Meanwhile, the warmth calms any spasms and reduces blood flow.

7.   Look Into Medications

If symptoms persist after dietary changes, you may need a prescription and over-the-counter medication to alleviate symptoms further. Your doctor may suggest a laxative and fiber supplement for chronic constipation.

Managing your IBS stack can be challenging if you’re out at work or about to sleep at night. If your symptom includes diarrhea, take anti-diarrhea to manage your IBS symptom. Since depression and anxiety can trigger abdominal problems, prescribed medication for depression and anxiety can help.

You can also make an appointment with your doctor to treat pain linked with IBS. Take note, though, that some medications can cause diarrhea and constipation. Talk to your doctor about possible flare-up indicators. Finding the right medication may take you a few tries.

8.   Keep a Food Diary

Jot down everything you have eaten during the day and how it makes you feel after eating each food. This will help you identify which food can cause IBS flare-ups so you can avoid them in the future. This is also helpful once you go for a check-up with your doctor.

Wrap-Up: Is it Possible to Avoid IBS Flare-Ups?

Conquering IBS flare-ups or even IBS itself is possible. Although IBS is often a lifelong health problem and may affect you in many ways, it should not stop you from enjoying your life to the fullest. After all, there are many ways to manage your symptoms, such as diet, tea, relaxation, exercise, and whatnot.

Most importantly, don’t hesitate to talk with your doctor if symptoms become non-manageable. You may need prescription medications to address your condition. Your doctor can help you develop a treatment plan consistent with your diet and lifestyle.

Our tips may not provide complete relief, but they are a good start. Take them by heart as you go on with your day. Experiment with some techniques to improve your diet and reduce stress, and you will find the best ways to relieve your IBS.

Remember, you are always in control of your IBS!



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