How to cope with IBS flare-ups


how to cope with IBS flare-ups

How can you cope with IBS flare-ups?

As well as being extremely frustrating, flare-ups just make you feel so awful. Often they seem to come out of the blue, wrecking your week, your morale and your organization.

Have you ever noticed that it is when you have a flare-up that you take the least care of yourself? Even if there is no miracle fix, being prepared really is a good way to reduce the anxiety and the pain.


When the flare-up starts our immediate reaction is worry. Worry that we are going to be in pain, in a difficult situation, and panic that we can’t cope with IBS flare-ups at work.  The more anxious you get, the worse symptoms become. And that downward spiral can set itself off amazingly quickly. If you can get yourself into the habit of taking a few deep breaths at the very first signs of a flare-up, you may actually avoid the flare-up, or at very least reduce its intensity. This can take time to master, but it can be very effective if you keep trying.


This is not the time to wonder if you have the meds that help you handy. Whatever you find helps, start using it straight away. This means having it on you at all times.

Toilet roll
empty toilet rolls

If that’s what you need, keep ready an emergency stock. You don’t want to be trying to rush out and buy some. The French say “I’m at the end of the roll” rather than “at the end of my tether”. I wonder where the expression came from…:)


When your body and brain just want to collapse on the sofa (or on the toilet) it’s really hard to do what your body needs  to best cope with IBS flare-ups.

If you are not hungry, don’t eat for a few hours. It will help your body rest. But have room-temperature water handy and make sure you drink regularly.

If you do want food, there is a huge temptation to reach for the biscuits or crisps or anything handy that will stop those awful stomach cramps. These are the types of foods that could actually prolong your pain, so binging on something else would be a better choice.  Work out a few basic snacks and meals you tolerate reasonably well, and have them handy. Fresh is best, but if this is not an option you may find it helpful to have some in the freezer that you can just heat up and eat.

Get support

If you live with someone, tell them how they can help you BEFORE you have a flare-up. If they don’t know, they can’t help. And flare-up time is not the best time for communication:)

Get some rest

Not always an easy one, but you will support your body by resting. A flare-up takes a great deal out of the body. If you can rest, you will feel better more quickly.

Think ahead

Before your next IBS flare-up, take the time to write down your own list of 4 or 5 points that can help you face it better. Note them on your phone, in a diary, on a post-it, whatever suits you – but keep them handy.  Before you are submerged by the stress of the flare-up, use this list to help you focus on what you need to do as soon as the first symptoms start:

IBS flare-up checklist example