The IBS sufferers’ guide to minimising flare ups
Updated: Jun 28, 2019
IBS flare ups are unpredictable, and can make you feel rubbish. Luckily, there are things that you can do to help alleviate the symptoms of an IBS attack (and help avoid them in the future).
IBS flare ups – which can include bloating, bouts of stomach cramps, diarrhoea and constipation – can happen at any time. But there are things that you can do to help alleviate the symptoms of an IBS attack, and even help avoid one in the future. I share my essential steps for IBS sufferers below - and get the full feature in the Daily Express and Mr & Mrs 50 Plus online.
1. Set an intention
Your new year’s resolutions may already be fading from your mind, but it’s not too late to set an intention to look after yourself this year. Intention setting helps you focus on long-term change, which is important if you have an ongoing health issue like IBS. Your intention could be “I’m going to take care of my body in the way that it deserves”. Dietary changes to reduce flare ups might be a part of this, but an intention will help you frame them as self-care rather than deprivation. See your body in a kinder light and look for positive ways to support it.
2. Find alternatives
Social events that involve food, like dining out with friends or work drinks, can be difficult to navigate if you have IBS, but eating your trigger foods because you don’t want to make a fuss is bound to cause a flare up. You can find most menus for restaurants online, so before going out for dinner, take the time to look at it and research other alternatives, instead of suffering through. Many restaurants now mark gluten-free or lactose-free choices on their menus, and there’s a range of alcohol-free options at the pub, from beer to G&T, so you can still enjoy yourself. Ask for almond milk in cafés, and choose sourdough toast at brunch – the fermentation process helps make bread easier to digest. You should always be direct and ask for what you need.
3. Keep a food and symptom diary
It can be hard to work out what’s causing your IBS flare ups. One really useful strategy is to keep a food and symptom diary. Keep it simple, just jot down the food you eat at each meal (don’t forget drinks and snacks) with a note of the time and location, along with any symptoms you’re experiencing. It’s important to remember that food can take 24-48 hours to pass through the digestive system, so symptoms straight after eating may actually be related to a food you ate yesterday. Keep your diary for a couple of weeks and see if you can spot any patterns.
4. Reduce your stress triggers
You may have noticed your symptoms getting worse in times of stress, and it’s a well-researched contributor to IBS. There’s a strong link between your brain and gut, and you can get stuck in a negative cycle of stress and symptoms. Think about strategies to keep flare ups under control. If you feel anxious in the mornings as your symptoms are worse, then make sure your morning routine includes plenty of time to go to the toilet. Exercise can also help: yoga or Pilates are relaxing if you get cramps, while constipation might be eased by a morning walk. Exercise is a great stress-reliever, so it will bring lots of added benefits.