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How to Handle IBS Flare-Ups: A 5-Point Guide to Easing Symptoms in the First Few Hours

Living with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) can be challenging, especially when flare-ups occur. 

These episodes can disrupt daily life and cause discomfort and distress. However, with the right knowledge and strategies, it is possible to effectively manage IBS flare-ups and alleviate symptoms. In this guide, we will explore five essential steps to help you navigate those first critical hours when dealing with an IBS flare-up.

Here at JUVIA we are passionate about gut health and we want to help as many people as possible to manage any discomfort that may arise from less-than-perfect gut health. 

Identifying Flare-Ups and Avoiding Triggers

The first step in handling an IBS flare-up is recognising the signs and understanding your personal triggers. IBS symptoms vary from person to person but commonly include abdominal pain, bloating, gas, diarrhoea, and constipation. By keeping a ‘symptom diary’ and noting food intake, stress levels, and lifestyle factors, you can identify patterns and potential triggers. 

Common triggers include certain foods (e.g., fatty or spicy foods, dairy, caffeine), stress, hormonal changes, and certain medications. Avoiding triggers is key to managing IBS symptoms effectively and you can only do that if you know what they are.

Check out our 30-day elimination diet for more information on how to identify problem foods. 

Finding What Works for You

Every individual's experience with IBS is unique. What works for one person may not work for another. It is crucial to listen to your body and find strategies that provide relief and manage your symptoms effectively. Experimenting with different remedies, dietary modifications, and stress management techniques can help identify what works best for you. Remember to keep track of your experiences and consult with a healthcare professional for guidance and support.

The two most common types of IBS are IBS-C, which causes constipation, and IBS-D, which causes diarrhoea. Some people experience a combination of both, which is why it is important to record symptoms and triggers. It is important to implement a strategy that works for your particular reaction to triggers. 

Natural and Effective Remedies

Several natural remedies can help ease IBS symptoms during flare-ups. These remedies have shown promise in research and have been endorsed by medical professionals. Here are a few options to consider the next time you have a flare-up:

Peppermint Oil: Peppermint oil, derived from the peppermint plant, has been found to have a soothing effect on the gastrointestinal tract and can alleviate IBS symptoms. It may help reduce abdominal pain, bloating, and gas. Consider using enteric-coated peppermint oil capsules, which release the oil in the intestines rather than the stomach.

Coffee: For those of you that experience constipation, coffee may be an effective way to promote bowel movements because caffeine stimulates the intestines. Studies have shown coffee to have a laxative effect, especially those with higher caffeine content. As with anything, however, coffee should be consumed in moderation, especially if it causes discomfort or overuse of the toilet.

Ginger: Ginger has long been used for its anti-inflammatory and digestive properties. It can help reduce nausea and calm the digestive system. You can buy ginger extract that is consumable in capsule form, but consider drinking ginger tea instead. Grating ginger and putting it into your tea is always going to be the better option because you will have larger quantities of the natural compounds. Ginger has a strong and spicy kick to it so add some lemon or honey to make it more palatable.

It is important to note that while these natural remedies have shown promise, their effectiveness can vary from person to person. Consulting with a healthcare professional is advised before incorporating them into your routine.

Over-the-counter remedies

While natural remedies are always preferable, and an ounce of prevention is better than a kilo of cure, there are medical interventions that can help you if your symptoms are really uncomfortable and you require urgent relief. 

As always, it is advisable to consult a medical professional and if you experience intense symptoms frequently, this is an indication of an underlying gut health issue that needs to be addressed. In the meantime, consider the following medicines. 

Antispasmodics: These medicines relax the muscles in the digestive tract, which is useful for cramping and abdominal pain. They can provide fairly immediate relief, but they are not ideal for a long-term solution to IBS. 

Laxatives: These medicines provide relief from constipation by encouraging intense bowel movements. The relief can be brought about fairly quickly and they often encourage a rather urgent need for the toilet. While they are useful for immediate relief, they should only be used in the short-term because it is unhealthy to rely on them. Laxatives utilise a lot of your water reserves, so it is important to replace them with electrolytes added to avoid dehydration.

Anti-diarrheal medications: Loperamide can help reduce the symptoms of diarrhoea, so you have better control over your bowel movements. This is useful if you are in a social situation or away from home, but again, it is not something you should not rely on long-term. If you experience these symptoms frequently, it is indicative of an underlying gut-health issue that needs to be addressed.  

Psyllium: Psyllium is an over-the-counter soluble dietary fibre solution. It promotes healthy bowel movements and helps to treat constipation. It can also address mild diarrhoea because it absorbs excess water to both soften and thicken your stools (poo). In all, it is a good weapon against IBS symptoms. 

Preventing Future IBS Flare-Ups

While managing flare-ups is crucial, preventing them in the first place is equally important. Here are some strategies for preventing future IBS flare-ups:

  1. Identify Food Triggers
  2. Implement a Low-FODMAP Diet
  3. Manage Stress
  4. Stay Hydrated
  5. Regular Exercise
  6. Prioritise sleep

Identify Food Triggers: As we said above, keeping a food diary and eliminating or reducing foods known to trigger your symptoms is very important to taking control of your gut health. Common trigger foods for IBS include gluten-containing grains, dairy products, fatty foods, spicy foods, and artificial sweeteners. Gradually reintroduce them one at a time to identify specific triggers. Some foods are known to be problematic. More on that below. 

Implement a Low-FODMAP Diet: The FODMAP diet scores ingredients according to how many fermentable carbohydrates they contain. It is an evidence-based approach that involves temporarily eliminating those fermentable carbohydrates (FODMAPs) from your diet and gradually reintroducing them to identify personal triggers. This approach has shown effectiveness in reducing IBS symptoms for many individuals. You can check out the FODMAP list here. 

Manage Stress: Stress can significantly impact IBS symptoms. Implement stress management techniques such as deep breathing exercises, meditation, yoga, or engaging in activities that promote relaxation. Meditation and yoga are proven to directly impact gut health and improve sleep, which also improves gut health. It may sound simple, but taking long walks in nature is also really beneficial to your mental health. In Japan, doctors prescribe this practice as medicine, and they call it ‘forest bathing’.  

Stay Hydrated: Proper hydration is crucial for maintaining regular bowel movements and preventing constipation. Aim to drink an adequate amount of water throughout the day and limit or avoid beverages that may trigger symptoms, such as carbonated drinks or caffeine (unless you’re constipated, of course).

Regular Exercise: Engaging in regular physical activity can help regulate bowel movements and reduce stress levels by stimulating the intestine. Find activities you enjoy, such as walking, swimming, or cycling, and aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week. Studies have shown that regular exercise improves gut health. 

Prioritise Sleep: Sleep disturbances can worsen IBS symptoms. Establish a regular sleep routine and create a sleep-friendly environment to promote quality sleep. If sleep difficulties persist, discuss them with your healthcare professional.

Managing IBS flare-ups requires a multifaceted approach that addresses triggers, symptom relief, and long-term prevention. Remember, what works for one person may not work for another, so it is essential to personalise your approach and seek guidance from healthcare professionals. By adopting a proactive and patient-centred mindset, you can gain control over your symptoms and improve your quality of life.

Here at JUVIA, we are very passionate about gut health and we want to be part of your journey. You will be glad that you did. Don’t forget to share JUVIA with your friends and family that experience tummy trouble. You will be giving them the gift of freedom.

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