How to deal with an IBS flare-up
Whether you have IBS or get bowel symptoms from a condition like endometriosis, going into a flare-up is exhausting and stressful. From bloating, pain, constipation or diarrhoea, the symptoms can make you feel awful both physically and mentally. It’s at times like this that we often forget the little things we can do to try and help. So, here’s a quick reminder of what you can do to help you through the flare up.
If you are in pain and your bowel is feeling inflamed, then your body needs rest to help deal with it. Sleep can have an anti-inflammatory effect on your body as well as restoring your energy levels. It may not always be possible to stay at home with your feet up during a flare, but trying to get as much rest as you can will help. Even if that’s only getting to bed a few hours earlier than normal.
Keeping well hydrated will help to keep things moving through the digestive tract. Making sure you have had enough fluids is really important for preventing constipation. If you have diarrhoea, you can lose fluid too quickly, so hydration is equally important for that too. Getting enough fluid can also help with energy levels, headaches and generally feeling sluggish. If you are in a flare-up, be mindful of the type of fluids you are drinking to make sure they don’t aggravate your symptoms. Water, herbal teas, kefir and smoothies can all be soothing for the gut. Caffeine, fizzy drinks or sugary drinks may aggravate symptoms in some people.
Dealing with IBS is stressful. And having a flare-up is even more stressful as you are not sure how long it will go on for, how bad it will get, how you will manage at work – and a whole list of other worries! That stress can then make the gut symptoms worse as our gut and brain are connected through the vagal nerve. Therefore, trying to do things to help you relax and reduce your stress levels can in turn help calm your gut symptoms. Try some breathing exercises, yoga, meditation and even singing or humming which can all stimulate the vagal nerve.
Often, it’s hard to know what to eat during a flare-up. Soups can be really helpful as a smooth soup means that food is already well broken down and so this gives your digestive system less work to do. It’s also a great way to get some protein into your diet, such as chicken, lentils, chickpeas or beans, along with some vegetables. If you use bone broth in place of stock, this can have a healing effect on the gut lining.
As well as helping with hydration levels, smoothies are another easy way to get some fruits and vegetables into your diet. Again, as they are already broken down, this can be easier for your digestion. Adding some healthy fats or protein into your smoothie such as avocado, nut butter, tahini or coconut oil helps to provide some more nutrients.
Include vitamin A rich foods in your diet.
Vitamin A can help to heal and repair the gut lining, so including plenty of vitamin A rich foods in your diet can help soothe the gut. Carrots, pumpkin, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, mango and spinach are all good sources of vitamin A. These are also foods that work well in soups and smoothies.
Remove foods that irritate the gut.
During a flare-up, you want to remove any foods that irritate the gut. Often it is quite individual as to which foods can aggravate your symptoms, but one of the common irritants is processed foods. The artificial flavourings and preservatives often make gut symptoms worse in people who are sensitive to them. Similarly, sugar can make gut symptoms worse as it can feed any bad bacteria in the gut.
Of course, ultimately, we want to reduce the flare-ups happening. If you would like some help with getting to the root cause of your flare-ups and putting in place a plan to help manage your symptoms, then do book in for a free hormone health review to find out how nutritional therapy can help.
The information contained above is provided for information purposes only. The contents of this blog are not intended to amount to advice and you should not rely on any of the contents of this blog. Professional advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from taking any action as a result of the contents of this blog. Emma Belton Nutrition disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on any of the contents of this blog.