Top Ways to Make Your IBS Flare Up

Keeping irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) under control can feel like a full-time job. That's because it is! IBS requires changes that can be extensive, including altering the diet to avoid trigger foods and adding some stress relief tools into the day. However, these changes can work well in helping to avoid potential pitfalls which in turn may prevent a flare-up of IBS that causes diarrhea or constipation. But not everyone knows what might worsen IBS, especially in the beginning, while figuring out a treatment plan. Are some of these things contributing to IBS flare-ups?



Hipster is smoking a cigarette in a sidewalk cafe
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Smoking cigarettes affects the entire body, not only the lungs and respiratory tract. When smoke is inhaled into the body, it also enters the stomach and intestines. Tobacco is a known irritant to the digestive tract that can cause bloating, cramping, gas, and stomach rumbling. This, of course, would not help IBS symptoms.


Don't Drink Water

Water jug and glass on a wooden outdoor table
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If a body only gets coffee and diet cola all day, we can't expect the digestive tract to work as well as it could. Water is essential to the good health of the entire body. Good water drinking habits will not only be helpful in preventing constipation, but also in replacing fluids lost from diarrhea


Don't Exercise

Fitness Equipment
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There is something that people can do in just 30 minutes a day that improves overall health, but most people don't do it. This is what exercise can do. The U.S. Surgeon General recommends getting 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week. It doesn't have to be a contiguous 30 minutes; it can also be 3 episodes of 10 minutes, or 2 episodes of 15. Exercise helps with all kinds of issues, including stress, but may also help in relieving constipation.


Ignore Stress

Close-up of tired thoughtful businesswoman with arms crossed at office
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Stress does not cause IBS, but it will worsen symptoms. Everyone has stress of one form or another—the important thing is in the reaction to that stress. Turning stress into something positive can help. Use stress to fuel creativity and to spur taking action on problems. Not allowing stress to fester and take hold until it starts affecting health is vital to coping with IBS.


Eat Large Meals

Cheeseburger with French Fries
Burcu Atalay Tankut / Getty Images

We all love to eat, but eating 3 large meals a day is not the best strategy for optimal digestive health. Instead, try eating 5 or 6 smaller meals throughout the day. People with IBS may have a heavy feeling after eating large meals, and eating smaller ones can help avoid that. In addition, the body will receive a steady stream of fuel all day, instead of repeated spikes and dips that can cause downturns in energy level.


Skip Sleep

young man Pulling an all nighter at his desk
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Most adults need to get 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night for optimal health. Scheduling this amount of time for sleep into the day, every day, is challenging, but vital to avoiding IBS flare-ups. Some people have trouble getting to sleep, or in staying asleep. Try practicing better sleep hygiene to improve the quantity and quality of sleep. Serious sleep problems should be brought up with a physician to help solve the problem.


Eat Your Trigger Foods

Baskets of Onion Rings, Curly Fries and Cheese Sticks
Lauri Patterson / Getty Images

Trigger foods vary from person to person with IBS, but some basic themes are: fatty foods, fried foods, carbonated beverages, and insoluble fiber. Learning which trigger foods to avoid takes time and energy, but when they're discovered, they can be avoided and that may cut down on flare-ups.


Drink Alcoholic Beverages

Close-Up Of Alcohol In Shot Glasses Arranged On Wooden Table
Anton Eine / EyeEm / Getty Images

This is a difficult one, especially for those who like to socialize. But beer (which tends to cause gas), wine, and mixed drinks (which often contain other triggers such as fruit juice or caffeinated beverages) can be hard on the gastrointestinal tract. Drinking is a quality of life issue, but in some cases, it might be better to avoid drinking in order to prevent causing a flare-up.


Eat Processed Foods

row of hot dogs on a grill
Douglas Sacha / Getty Images

Processed foods often contain additives such as sugar or fat substitutes. Many of these artificial flavorings are known to be gastrointestinal irritants. Even people who do not have a diagnosed digestive condition may experience gas, diarrhea, bloating, and pain after eating food additives. Look for fresh, whole foods that contain the fewest amount of ingredients.


Don't Seek Help

Women friends drinking coffee and talking at cafe table

Caiaimage / Paul Bradbury / Getty Images

Help can come from friends, family, coworkers, and a health-care team. Seek help in sticking to an IBS-friendly diet and in reducing stress. Don't be afraid to accept help and good advice when it is offered from a trusted source.

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