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What to do for an Irritable Bowel Syndrome Flare Up?

About Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a collection of symptoms that develop due to dysfunctional intestines. These symptoms occur in tandem with each other and cause lot of pain and discomfort to the affected individual. The discomfort is to such an extent that it often leads to missed work and school where the individual is literally bedridden till the symptoms calm down. The symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome normally occur for a few days for duration of at least three to four months before going into remission only to recur again after some time.

Studies suggest that approximately 25% of Americans suffer from this condition at some time or the other and it is seen to occur more in females than males showing that gender has a role to play in the development of this condition. How intense and severe the symptoms will be is quite unpredictable and are different from one person to another.

The primary presenting features of irritable Bowel Syndrome include diarrhea alternating with periods of constipation, abdominal pain and discomfort, bloating and gas. Stress and eating habits play a crucial role in irritable bowel syndrome. Drinking too much alcohol and cool drinks also trigger symptoms of this condition.

As stated the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome waxes and wanes. However, it is vital to know what to do when the symptoms flare up. This article gives an overview of some of the guidelines that one can follow in cases of a flare-up of the symptoms of this condition.

What to do for an Irritable Bowel Syndrome Flare Up?

What To Do For An Irritable Bowel Syndrome Flare Up?

A flare-up of the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome can be physically and emotionally disabling for the affected individual. The pain and discomfort along with other symptoms can make an individual literally bedridden for a few days.

Frequent trips to the restroom also make it difficult for the individual to go out with family and friends for any specific period of time. There may be cases where they may not be able to reach to the restroom on time which becomes quite embarrassing for them especially in public. Thus it is vital to get a knowhow as to what to do during a flare up of irritable bowel syndrome.

Heat. This is a good way to get rid of the spasms that are caused due to frequent stools as a result of irritable bowel syndrome. Applying heat to the abdominal area not only eases the spasms but also improves the blood flow to the muscles in the colon decreasing cramps and spasms.

An individual can apply heat to the abdominal area by using a heating pad or a hot water bottle. It should be ensured that while applying heat the skin should not come in direct of the heat source as it may lead to formation of blisters.

Peppermint. Sipping a peppermint tea is an excellent way to calm down a flare-up of irritable bowel syndrome. Peppermint is soothing to the muscles of the colon and calms down the inflammation. Green tea is yet another source of calming down the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.

Relaxation Techniques. Since stress plays an important role in irritable bowel syndrome flare up, being relaxed is the key to keep the symptoms down. Deep breathing is the best way to relax and keep all the stress at bay. It also calms the nerves and prevents the brain from signaling any emergency response. Yoga poses like the pranayama is also an excellent way to deal with stress and keep the mind calm and collected.

Symptom Diary. Keeping a diary of the symptoms can give the patient an idea as to when can there be a flare-up of the symptoms as he or she will have a pattern through which this can be determined.

In the symptoms diary, the patient can mention what foods trigger the symptoms, what activities result in stress and aggravation of symptoms. If an individual has an idea as to when the symptoms aggravate then it becomes easier to plan the day or evening with friends and family

Physician Advice. It is very important that the patient discuss flare up of symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome with the physician. This will help the physician to formulate a plan through which it becomes easier for the patient to identify when a flare up is likely to occur and to be prepared for it.

Medications. It is also necessary to take an antidiarrheal before venturing out with people just in case there is a flare up of the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. Keeping these medications in the purse or pocket is always handy just in case it is required.


  1. Mayo Clinic. “Irritable Bowel Syndrome. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/irritable-bowel-syndrome/symptoms-causes/syc-20360016
  2. International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders. “Tips for Managing Flares of IBS Symptoms. https://www.iffgd.org/other-disorders/irritable-bowel-syndrome/ibs-flares.html

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:August 9, 2023

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