How to Soothe an IBS Flare Up the Right Way

Apr 3, 2021 - Audrey Inouye, RD

How to Soothe an IBS Flare Up

Getting FODMAPed is not fun. Take a deep breath and forgive yourself.  Keep in mind that an IBS flare up doesn’t last forever. This too shall pass. Don’t be discouraged, because this doesn’t bring you back to square one.  You simply get back on the horse and keep trotting along.

FODMAP flare ups may last for a few hours or a day or two. If your symptoms are lasting for an unusually long time, then you should check with your dietitian or doctor to make sure that you are doing everything you can to feel well again.

In the meantime, there are many things that you can do to soothe your symptoms. Keep in mind that different things work for different people and recovery will also depend on your individual symptoms.

What to do when an IBS flare up hits

Keep Your FODMAPs Low

I’m not saying that you have to strip your diet down to chicken and rice.  But it does help to reduce your overall FODMAP intake until you are feeling better again. Foods that are high in FODMAPs (I’m looking at you garlic) can be difficult to digest, so it’s nice to give your body a bit of a break with lower FODMAP and easier to digest foods.  

Spoonful App

Use a Heating Pad

Heating pads are SO soothing for the belly! Across the board, my IBS patients find that a heating pad is one of the best things for treating a flare up. Don’t have a heating pad on hand? That’s okay! Fill up your water bottle with hot water and lay it gently on your stomach.  

Reduce Stress and Nurture Yourself

The mind-gut connection is very strong. Stress and anxiety can exacerbate your digestive symptoms by dialing up your nervous system. I know from personal experience as a working mom, it feels impossible to put your own needs first. However, you need to make sure you care for yourself mid flare up before you see to others.

Recommended: How to Fit FODMAPs into the Family

Gut directed hypnotherapy can help dial down your gut and reduce digestive symptoms. Thanks to the Nerva app, gut directed hypnotherapy is much more accessible. They offer a free week to try it out and this link will also give you a 20% discount.  

Gentle Movement

In my opinion, physical activity is the answer to everything – stress management, muscle and joint pain, heart health, and even a digestive flare up. I’m not talking about a power workout at the gym (though if that’s your vibe, then go for it). I mean any type of activity that you enjoy such as stretching, yoga, a walk, a bike ride, time on the elliptical, etc. Gentle movement can improve circulation to your gut, release your happy hormones, and keep everything moving through you. The best type of physical activity is the type that you will do.  

Encapsulated Peppermint Oil 

You may remember peppermint oil from our Low FODMAP Supplements article – encapsulated peppermint oil is a mild analgesic and antispasmodic. It can reduce smooth muscle contractions in your small intestine and reduce pain. Don’t expect it to take you from a pain scale of 10 to 1, but it can help take the edge off your symptoms.

Tip: Make sure it is “encapsulated” so that the oil bypasses your stomach and goes to work like a soothing cream on your small intestine.

Nurture Your Bowels

If diarrhea is one of your symptoms, you will want to pass on your cup of coffee, which may further stimulate your colon to move. An anti-diarrheal such as loperamide may help you get on with your day and worry less about being close to the toilet.

Constipation is a little more complicated. However, a cup of coffee and a Squatty Potty may be just the solution you need. There are many more things that can help keep your bowels moving, so I encourage you to work with your dietitian to find the right combination of food, laxatives, and/or fiber for your body.

You don’t need to suffer through an IBS flare up. Try a combination of these techniques to find what works best for you. If you are in need of a sympathetic ear, join the private Spoonful Facebook group for moral support and encouragement from our lovely users.