6 Strategies for Managing an IBS Flare
If you’re living with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), chances are that you’ve experienced a ‘flare-up’ – where your symptoms get significantly worse from the usual! This can be so frustrating because often times we feel like we have it all figured out – eating the right food, managing our stress, and getting enough sleep. But, if you’ve been living with IBS long enough, you know – it’s a normal experience to have ups and downs in symptom control!
Being prepared for a flare-up can be helpful and make you feel less overwhelmed when worsening symptoms strike.
Here are Ignite’s top tips for getting back on track during an IBS flare up.
1. Ensure you’re getting enough fibre
Did you know that most Canadians are only consuming about half their recommended fibre intake (25 g for females and 38 g for males)? It’s even harder to hit those targets when following the low FODMAP diet, but at the same time is key for symptom management.
- absorbs excess water, which can decrease diarrhea and soften stool to decrease constipation
- creates bulk, which can help with both diarrhea and constipation
- maintains gut motility, which can help with constipation
- reduce sensations of urgency, which can be super helpful if your main symptom is diarrhea
Fibre is found in plant-based foods – think vegetables and fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds, and legumes like lentils and chickpeas.
Some great examples of low FODMAP fibre sources include:
- bananas with no brown spots
- kiwi fruit
- chia seeds
- leafy green vegetables
Getting back to basics and choosing low FODMAP fibre can help to get your guts back on track.
2. Ensure you’re getting enough fluid
If you’re having a flare where diarrhea is your main symptom, getting enough fluid is important for preventing dehydration. If you’re having a flare where constipation is your main symptom, getting enough fluid helps keep stool soft and pass through your digestive tract more easily. Have you been skimping on the fluid lately? This may contribute to some of those flares, especially with constipation.
Aiming for 2-3L (8-12 cups) of fluid is a good target. Tips to increase fluid intake include carrying a water bottle with you, tracking fluid intake with an app, setting a reminder to drink on your phone, and pairing drinking water to another activity you do every day (for example, when you eat meals and snacks).
3. Avoid non-FODMAP food triggers
Have you ever followed the low FODMAP diet, only to find you’re still having IBS symptoms? While the low FODMAP diet is helpful for managing IBS symptoms, there are other things that may also trigger a flare by irritating the gut lining, speeding up how quickly things move through your gut, or causing gas to travel to the gut.
Some non-FODMAP food triggers include:
- High fat foods
- Spicy foods
- Carbonated beverages
Individual tolerance to non-FODMAP food triggers varies widely. If you feel like they may be a trigger for you, try using a food journal and monitoring how your symptoms vary when you consume these foods. Often reducing from your regular intake can help reduce symptoms, especially during an IBS flare.
4. Meal timing and spacing
When you’re living with IBS, you likely spend a lot of time thinking about what to eat. But did you know that when we eat can also affect IBS symptoms? Skipping meals during the day often leads to eating large portions at supper or grazing in the evening. Eating a larger portion of food at one time can lead to bloating and indigestion. If you find that your symptoms are worse in the evening, try including three balanced meals and two to three snacks in between throughout the day. This can often help relieve symptoms related to large portion sizes.
5. Manage stress
Stress management an important but often overlooked part of IBS management. Just as the gut talks to the brain, the brain also talks to the gut. If the message being sent from the brain to the gut is negative (for example, if you’re stressed or anxious), it can worsen digestive symptoms. Unfortunately, it’s common for people with IBS to experience anxiety around food, especially during a flare. This stress can lead to an increase in perceived pain in the gut and can even change how fast or slow the gut moves.
It’s important to find stress management and mindfulness techniques that work for you. These strategies can help make the interaction between the brain and the gut more positive and improve symptoms during a flare.
Some strategies to help manage stress include:
- Slowing down before meals. This helps put your body into “rest and digest” mode so that you’re better able to digest the food you’re eating. Try taking 5 deep belly breaths before your meal!
- Guided meditation
6. Get back to basics with prepared low FODMAP meals
We get it. When your IBS symptoms are flaring up, you’re likely feeling run down and low on motivation to cook. But it’s still important to nourish your body! That’s why prepared, easy to digest, low FODMAP meals from companies like Epicured are a great option during an IBS flare – it takes the stress off of meal planning, prep, and cooking! By focusing on foods that are low in FODMAPs, you can decrease gastrointestinal sensitivity and find relief from your symptoms. You can save 20% off your Epicured order with our promo code: IGNITE.
Getting back to a low FODMAP diet for a couple of weeks can help get your gut symptoms back under control. However, it’s important to eventually reintroduce some FODMAP-containing foods, as they often contain fibre and help feed our good gut bacteria. In addition, tolerance to FODMAPs can change over time, so it’s important to re-do FODMAP reintroductions occasionally to see if your tolerance has changed. For support while on the Low FODMAP diet work with one of our registered dietitians.
Take Home Message
Managing an IBS flare can be stressful and frustrating, but there are many strategies you can use to get your symptoms back on track. If you’ve tried the above strategies and are still struggling to find relief, working with a specialized dietitian who has experience with IBS is recommended. Together, you can work together to find management strategies that are individualized and works for you.
Disclosure: This is a sponsored post through the Epicured. I received financial compensation from the Epicured to talk about my top tips for managing an IBS flare. There is not an affiliate link in this post rather a discount code passed on by Epicured. While the information conveyed may support clients’ objectives, the opinions expressed are my own and based on current scientific evidence. I do not engage in business with companies whose products or services do not match my personal and professional beliefs.