Relief for Mild Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Self-care when you have mild stomach symptoms

Even if you are not dealing with a full-blown case of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), there may be times when your system acts funny, resulting in stomach problems and bouts of abdominal pain, diarrhea, or constipation, which may indicate mild IBS.

Maybe this happens just when you are really stressed out, or maybe your stomach just doesn't feel right for a while after a bad case of the stomach flu. Just because you don't have it as bad as those heart-breaking stories you read about, or maybe as bad as you have had it in the past, doesn't mean that there is nothing you can do. Read on for some simple ways to get your system back to normal.

Use Heat

man with hot water bottle
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Heat can offer you more than just psychological soothing. Applying heat to your belly can relax the area and help to reduce your tummy pain as well as help to reduce muscle spasms and cramping that can arise from mild IBS.

Invest in a hot water bottle or heating pad so that you will have this option whenever your belly acts up. Just be sure to protect your skin with a towel or a layer of clothing to prevent a burn.

Avoid the Really Bad Trigger Foods

variety of fried foods
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Until your belly settles down, you may need to treat it with kid gloves. This means eating foods that are easier to digest and avoiding those foods that have a reputation for triggering unwanted digestive symptoms. This means avoiding greasy, fatty, and fried foods and junk foods. You may also want to avoid dairy for a short period of time until your stomach starts to feel better.

Sip Some Tea

woman with a cup of tea
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Like the use of heat, sipping a cup of tea can bring you some oh-so-important soothing. In addition, the choice of the right tea may also bring about some relief of your symptoms.

The best tea to use to soothe abdominal symptoms, hands down, is peppermint tea. Peppermint has been clinically shown to act as an antispasmodic, meaning that it eases cramping and thus relieves abdominal pain.

Learn How to Physically Calm Your Body

woman meditating
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The body's ability to respond to stress worked wonderfully when we lived in caves and occasionally encountered a hungry tiger. In our current stress-filled world, however, the system doesn't quite work as well.

Because our digestive systems are closely connected to this stress response system, it is quite common to experience unpleasant intestinal symptoms during times in our lives when our stress levels are higher, especially for those with IBS. Luckily, there are ways for you to counteract or turn off the stress response. Relaxation techniques are a simple, do-anywhere, non-drug method for calming your body and quieting your system. Learn how to use visualization, deep breathing exercises, and progressive muscle relaxation.

When to Call Your Healthcare Provider

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If your mild IBS symptoms persist for more than three months, call and make an appointment with your healthcare provider so as to obtain an accurate diagnosis. Your practitioner will work with you to find the source of your symptoms and provide more options for relieving them.

If you have any of the following red-flag symptoms, call your healthcare provider immediately:

These symptoms must always be checked out as they can point to a condition or illness that needs immediate treatment.

7 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease. Symptoms & Causes of Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

  2. Shirazi-Nejad AR, Hebden JM. Abdominal pain relieved by a warm hot water bottle: an atypical presentation of eosinophilic gastroenteritis. European Journal of Case Reports in Internal Medicine. 2020 May 12;7(8):001687. doi: 10.12890/2020_001687. 

  3. Cozma-Petruţ A, Loghin F, Miere D, Dumitraşcu DL. Diet in irritable bowel syndrome: What to recommend, not what to forbid to patients! World Journal of Gastroenterology. 2017;23(21):3771-3783. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v23.i21.3771

  4. Billings W, Mathur K, Craven HJ, Xu H, Shin A. Potential benefit with complementary and alternative medicine in irritable bowel syndrome: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology. 2021;19(8):1538-1553.e14. doi: 10.1016/j.cgh.2020.09.035

  5. Alammar N, Wang L, Saberi B, et al. The impact of peppermint oil on the irritable bowel syndrome: a meta-analysis of the pooled clinical data. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2019;19(1):21. doi: 10.1186/s12906-018-2409-0

  6. Weaver KR, Melkus GD, Fletcher J, Henderson WA. Perceived stress, its physiological correlates, and quality of life in patients with irritable bowel syndrome. Biological Research For Nursing. 2018;20(3):312-320. doi: 10.1177/1099800418756733

  7. Naliboff BD, Smith SR, Serpa JG, et al. Mindfulness‐based stress reduction improves irritable bowel syndrome (Ibs) symptoms via specific aspects of mindfulness. Neurogastroenterology & Motility. 2020;32(9). doi: 10.1111/nmo.13828

Additional Reading
  • Ford, A., "American College of Gastroenterology Monograph on the Management of Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Chronic Idiopathic Constipation" American Journal of Gastroenterology 2014 109:S2-S26.

By Barbara Bolen, PhD
Barbara Bolen, PhD, is a licensed clinical psychologist and health coach. She has written multiple books focused on living with irritable bowel syndrome.