Ibs flare up diet

Be Wary of Certain Foods

Only you know which ones give you IBS-D symptoms. But while you figure out your own triggers, you might want to take special care with foods known to cause symptoms in some people with your condition:

  • Broccoli, onions, and cabbage
  • Fried or fatty foods like French fries
  • Milk or dairy products such as cheese or ice cream
  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine in coffee, teas, and some sodas
  • Carbonated sodas
  • Chocolate
  • Gluten, found in wheat, rye, and barley

Sorbitol, a sugar substitute found in gum and mints, and fructose, a simple sugar in honey and some fruits, also trigger IBS symptoms in some people.

How you eat may also give you trouble. You might be bothered by foods with extreme temperatures, especially if you have them together, like ice-cold water with steaming hot soup. Many people get symptoms after large meals.

Try to eat less at each meal, or have four or five small meals a day.

Remember, your reactions to what you eat are unique, Bonci says. So experiment with different foods until you’ve come up with your own IBS nutrition prescription.

“There isn’t an IBS diet, per se,” Bonci says. “Some people will find they’re OK with particular foods, and other people find there’s just no way.”

Try a FODMAPs diet to manage irritable bowel syndrome

Updated: September 17, 2019Published: October, 2014

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common gastrointestinal disorder that affects 1 out of 10 people in the United States each year. With symptoms like cramping, diarrhea, gas and bloating, it’s no surprise that living with IBS can have a significant effect on a person’s quality of life.

Diet is one way people manage IBS symptoms. A common treatment approach is to avoid the foods that trigger symptoms. Another diet for IBS, developed in Australia, is having a lot of success in managing IBS symptoms. It’s called the low FODMAP diet.

What Is the Low FODMAP Diet?

FODMAP stands for “Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides And Polyols. These fermentable short-chain carbohydrates are prevalent in the diet.

  • Oligosaccharides: fructans and galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS)
  • Disaccharides: lactose
  • Monosaccharides: fructose
  • Polyols: sorbitol and mannitol

Researchers discovered that the small intestine does not absorb FODMAPs very well. They increase the amount of fluid in the bowel. They also create more gas. That’s because bacteria in the colon they are easily fermented by colonic bacteria. The increased fluid and gas in the bowel leads to bloating and changes in the speed with which food is digested. This results in gas, pain and diarrhea. Eating less of these types of carbohydrates should decrease these symptoms.

So far, studies have shown that a low FODMAP diet improves IBS symptoms. One study even found that 76% of IBS patients following the diet reported improvement with their symptoms.

Eat Less Of These Foods

  • Lactose
    • Cow’s milk, yogurt, pudding, custard, ice cream, cottage cheese, ricotta cheese and mascarpone
  • Fructose
    • Fruits, such as apples, pears, peaches, cherries, mangoes, pears and watermelon
    • Sweeteners, such as honey and agave nectar
    • Products with high fructose corn syrup
  • Fructans
    • Vegetables, such as artichokes, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, beetroot, garlic and onions
    • Grains such as wheat and rye
    • Added fiber, such as inulin
  • GOS
    • Chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans and soy products
    • Vegetables, such as broccoli
  • Polyols
    • Fruits, such as apples, apricots, blackberries, cherries, nectarines, pears, peaches, plums and watermelon
    • Vegetables, such as cauliflower, mushrooms and snow peas
    • Sweeteners, such as sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol, maltitol and isomalt found in sugar-free gum and mints, and cough medicines and drops

Eat More Of These Foods

The idea behind the low FODMAPs diet is to only limit the problematic foods in a category — not all of them. (After all, they do have health benefits.) You may tolerate some foods better than others.

Meet with a registered dietician if you are considering this diet. It’s important to make sure your eating plan is safe and healthy. He or she will have you eliminate FODMAPs from your diet. Then you gradually add the carbohydrates back in one at a time and monitor your symptoms. A food diary and symptom chart may be helpful tools.

The Bottom Line

The low FODMAP diet has shown potential in helping people with IBS. Some health professionals believe it’s too restrictive. Proponents of the diet report that people stick with it because of how it improves their quality of life.

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5 Foods to Avoid if You Have IBS

  1. Milk

    Milk and other foods that contain lactose, like cheese and ice cream, can cause gas and bloating in people who are lactose intolerant. “70 percent of adults worldwide do not produce large amounts of lactase, an intestinal enzyme that helps break down the sugar in milk,” says Lee. As a result of not absorbing lactose in the small intestine, the undigested lactose passes to the colon where bacteria ferment and cause gas.

  2. Foods High in Fructose

    While processed foods such as soft drinks and commercially prepared sweets are frequent culprits (a main ingredient is high fructose corn syrup), they are not the only source of blame (or bloat).

    It turns out some very healthy foods like apples, pears and dried fruits are high in the naturally occurring sugar fructose, which when ingested, can trigger some of the same side effects as undigested lactose.

    “The best thing to do is to eat more fruits that don’t contain as much fructose, like berries, citrus and bananas,” says Lee.

  3. Carbonated Beverages

    Because the bubbles in beverages like soda and seltzer can produce a similar fizzy effect in the GI tract, Lee recommends sticking with water and lactose-free milk to quench your thirst. And before you think about adding juice to that list — remember that fruit-based drinks are frequently high in fructose!

  4. Caffeine

    Caffeine can increase diarrhea, another major symptom of IBS. High sources of caffeine include coffee, tea, cola drinks, chocolate and over the counter headache pills such as Excedrin.

  5. Sugar-free Chewing Gums

    Many sugar free gums are made with artificial sweeteners like sorbitol and xylitol, which have been shown to cause diarrhea. In addition, chewing gum leads to more air being swallowed, which can result in gassiness.

    Other foods with the potential to generate digestive discomfort include beans and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and Brussels sprouts, as well as nutritional and weight reduction supplements. Even though dairy products are the major culprits of discomfort for some IBS sufferers, yogurt proves to be an exception.

    “It’s generally OK because the bacteria in the yogurt breaks down the lactose, so it’s less likely to cause gassy symptoms,” says Lee. She also advises her patients to work on reducing stress, getting adequate sleep and minimizing the intake of highly refined processed foods.

Soothing solutions for irritable bowel syndrome

Adopting these strategies can help treat and manage this common digestive condition.

Published: February, 2019

Image: © Zerbor/Getty Images

Many older men struggle with intermittent stomach symptoms for many years without a diagnosis. They might have cramping, excessive gas, bloating, constipation, or bouts of unexplained diarrhea — or some combination. If these problems started when you were much younger, you likely have irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS.

“IBS is most common in people in their 30s and 40s; however, it can occur at any age,” says Dr. Anthony Lembo, a gastroenterologist with Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. “Since older individuals, including men, tend to have greater problems with constipation or diarrhea, it is particularly important that they are aware of IBS.”

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Welcome to the First House Call with Dr. Hyman!

So many times, I get asked health questions—in my newsletters, on Facebook, on Twitter, by my patients, or when I give lectures.

That’s why I’ve created House Call with Dr. Hyman. It’s a Q&A with me once a week. I’m inviting you to send your questions, to share your thoughts, to ask me whatever you want about your health issues and concerns, and I’ll try to answer them.

I’ll do it from the perspective of functional medicine, which is a whole new framework of thinking about solving the puzzle of chronic disease. It is the science of creating health.

And I’ll provide tools, suggestions, and plans to help you take back your health.

Let’s get started!

Welcome to my weekly house call—your chance to ask me your questions.

How To Cure Irritable Bowel Syndrome in a Few Days

This week’s question is, “I have irritable bowel syndrome. What do I do about it? What causes it? How do I fix my leaky gut? Do I take drugs?”

Irritable bowel syndrome is a huge problem that affects almost 50 million Americans or almost one of every six people.

It’s one of the most common reasons for visits to the doctor, and yet, most doctors have no clue how to treat it or what’s really causing it.

That’s where functional medicine comes in.

Functional medicine is a not a new treatment or test or modality. It’s a whole new way of thinking about solving the puzzle of chronic symptoms and diseases.

Irritable bowel syndrome is a fantastic model for illustrating how functional medicine works.

So, what is irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, anyway?

Irritable bowel syndrome is what doctors call symptoms of bloating or gas, distention, constipation, diarrhea, cramping—where your bowel is just irritable. When you look in there during a colonoscopy, you don’t really see anything. It looks normal.

There is no structural problem, no tumor or obvious cause. The root problem is dysfunction of your gut ecosystem. Most doctors often suggest eating more fiber or taking Metamucil. That’s generally not very effective.

IBS causes needless misery for millions of people.

But it is fixable!

The causes of irritable bowel syndrome

In functional medicine, we know that one disease can have many causes (or that one cause can create many diseases—think gluten).

If you have five people with IBS, the causes may be quite different for each person. In functional medicine, we focus on getting to the root cause of disease.

There are really only five causes of all disease: allergens, microbes or imbalance of the bugs in your gut, toxins, poor diet, and stress. All of these can trigger symptoms and create thousands of diseases.

Remember those five people with irritable bowel? Each one of them may have different causes for the exact same symptoms.

Let’s go through the causes of IBS and look at what you can do to get rid of it once and for all. It’s extraordinary how simple it is once we know the right thing to do.

There’s a funny joke I always tell about how important it is to know what to do. This patient got his appendix out and the doctor sends him a bill for $1,000, and the patient goes, “Wow! That’s lot of money for such a simple operation.”

The doctor is like, “You’re right.” And he sends him another bill: $1 for taking out your appendix, $999 for knowing what needs to be taken out.

Functional medicine is sort of like that. We know exactly what to do and how to take things out. We treat the system not the symptoms.

Food allergens or sensitivities

The first thing that can happen is that foods can irritate your bowel and digestive system.

They are called food sensitivities. It’s not a true allergy like a peanut allergy or shellfish allergy, but it’s a more mild food sensitivity. But it can cause terrible symptoms, and they are very common.

The most common thing in food that people react to is gluten. That’s the protein found in wheat, barley, rye, oats, and spelt.

It’s a very common reaction even if you don’t have celiac disease, which is a full-blown reaction to gluten. Even if your doctor tells you your tests for gluten antibodies or celiac are normal, you can still have a severe reaction.

Dairy, another big problem. This can be caused by the lactose, which about 75 percent of people can’t digest.

It causes bloating, gas, and diarrhea. But dairy can also create problems even if you don’t have lactose intolerance. Lactaid milk helps with lactose intolerance but not other dairy reactions.

Dairy contains proteins (like casein and whey) that also can cause irritation and inflammation in your gut.

There are many, many other foods people can react to, including soy, corn, and eggs.

In my book, The UltraSimple Diet, I’ve created a comprehensive elimination diet to get rid of all the most common problem foods for one week.

It allows you to connect the dots and learn whether what you are eating is causing your symptoms. Most people don’t connect those dots very well.

There are also some tests available that you can use to assess food sensitivities and gluten reactions. Check out the “How to Work with Your Doctor to Get What You Need” guide for more information. It’s a great resource to help you figure out what tests you need, and it’s free!

Bad bugs in the gut

The second cause of IBS is imbalances in your gut ecosystem. You have enormous ecosystem of bugs in there—500 species of bugs. There are one hundred trillion bacterial cells in there.

There are 10 times as many bacterial cells as your own cells. You are only 10 percent human!

In fact, there is a hundred times as much bacterial DNA in you as your own DNA. So, you are only really 10% human! And these bugs have to be in balance for you to be healthy. We call this the human microbiome.

If you have bad bugs growing in there or an overgrowth of yeast, or if you have parasites or worms, you can get IBS.

Also, if you have bugs in the wrong spot, you can have a problem. Most of the bacteria are in your large intestine, but sometimes, they kind of move up and go into the small intestine. That’s not very good, because that should be sterile.

When you eat food that’s starchy—bread, cereal, pasta, rice, or sugary foods—the bacteria ferment the sugars in the food. It’s like the way apple cider blows up in the plastic container in your fridge when it goes bad. That’s what happens in your gut.

The bacteria ferment the sugars in the food you eat, and you blow up. That’s why you get bloating right after meals. We call that postprandial bloating or bloating after you eat or what one of my patients calls a “food baby.”

That’s a very common symptom of bacterial overgrowth. We call that SIBO, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. It’s very common and a very easy thing to treat if you use the right modality. Most doctors never diagnose or treat this properly.

Yeast overgrowth is also common in your gut. It’s sort of like a garden where the weeds take over. Yeast overgrowth happens because of taking antibiotics, steroids, birth control pills, or acid-blocking drugs.

It also occurs if you eat a lot of sugar, drink alcohol, or you are diabetic.

All these things tend to cause overgrowth of yeast, and that can be treated with an antifungal, such as Diflucan, Nystatin or Sporanox. Antifungal herbs, such as oregano, can also be effective to reboot your gut.

I’m not a big fan of medication, but sometimes for irritable bowel, a good non-absorbed antibiotic called Xifaxan will clear out the SIBO (bacterial overgrowth) and stop bloating and diarrhea.

Using the Xifaxin and an antifungal is almost like hitting the reset button on your computer; you reboot your gut and then you start over.

Other bugs can also be a problem. Stool testing may be needed to identify parasites or worms. At The UltraWellness Center, we do innovative stool testing that examines your gut ecosystem. We are not only looking for infections but imbalances in your ecosystem.

Do you have enough of the good bacteria? Do you have worms or parasites or yeast or other bad bugs?

You can often treat these things based on symptoms or your medical history and then test if you don’t get better. The key is to reboot your gut by getting rid of the bad stuff and putting in the good stuff.

How to heal your gut

How do you heal your gut? First we remove the bad stuff (bad bugs, yeast, parasites, worms, food sensitivities). We replace the things that that are missing (enzymes, prebiotics from fiber). We re-inoculate with healthy bacteria (probiotics), and we repair the gut with the right nutrients.

We talked about getting rid of the bad stuff (bugs and food sensitivities).

Now, we have to add in the good stuff.

Replace digestive enzymes to help break down the food while your gut is healing. You may need those for two or three months.

Then, you need to re-inoculate your gut with healthy bacteria using probiotics including Bifidobacteria, Lactobacillus, and other strains of bacteria. They help to repopulate the healthy gut flora and allow your digestion to work better.

You can also eat probiotic-rich foods like kimchi, kombucha, miso, or sauerkraut. Sometimes, you can also eat yogurt if you are not allergic to dairy. Try unsweetened sheep or goat yogurt. These are all foods that help your gut flora get and stay healthy.

Vitamin A, zinc, omega-3 fats (fish oil), evening primrose oil, and glutamine all help repair the gut. We also use herbs like quercetin and turmeric to reduce inflammation and heal a leaky gut.

When your gut is “leaky,” food proteins and microbial proteins leak into your bloodstream, causing inflammation.

A leaky gut occurs when the gut lining is interrupted. Normally, your intestinal cells are stuck together like Legos.

But when they come apart or separate, food proteins and bacteria leak in and they start pissing off your immune system. This triggers inflammation.

Not only will you have irritable bowel but a leaky gut can also cause joint pain, fatigue, cognitive problems, depression, allergies, congestion, and rashes like eczema.

You name it; many symptoms and diseases are caused by leaky gut.

In Functional medicine, the gut is one of the most important systems to focus on and to get working well, because that’s the seat of your health. It’s connected to everything else.

Action items

Do an elimination diet to get rid of common food sensitivities. Get rid of dairy, gluten, and sugar. Try The UltraSimple Diet for two to three weeks. If you find you are better, then you may want to stay off the trigger foods long term.

Try herbs for cleaning out bad bacteria or yeast. I recommend the Candibactin BR two capsules three times a day for a month for bacterial overgrowth and Candibactin AR two capsules three times a day for yeast overgrowth.

Consider testing for food sensitivities and for stool issues (see How To Work With Your Doctor to Get What You Need.) Consider Cryex 3 testing for gluten sensitivity when conventional tests for gluten are negative.

Add digestive enzymes for two to four months. I like Enzyme Complete by Kirkman. Take two capsules with each meal.

Add probiotics. Use high potency probiotics. With my patients, I use Ther-Biotic Complete by Klaire Labs 2 twice a day.

Add nutrients for healing a leaky gut. These can be taken in a shake or as separate supplements. I recommend for my patients UltraInflamX (rice protein, turmeric, ginger, quercetin, zinc, and nutrients), two scoops a day as a shake, plus G.I. Integrity (glutamine), four capsules twice a day, and fish oil OmegaGenics 720, two capsules twice a day.

If you are constipated (not having one or two normal bowel movements a day) take magnesium citrate capsules 150 to 300 mg once or twice a day. If you take too much you will get loose stools so just take less.

By following this approach, most people can heal their irritable bowel.

If you are not getting better, you may need medical help.

You may need treatment for SIBO or bacterial overgrowth. I recommend Xifaxin (a non-absorbed antibiotic), 550mg twice a day for 10 days, and Diflucan, 100mg a day for three to four weeks to kill the yeast. Sometimes treatment for parasites or worms is needed based on the testing.

I encourage you to join me on Facebook and Twitter and stay connected, share your comments, submit your questions, and maybe next week, I will make a house call to you.

Learn more

5 Steps To Kill Hidden Bugs in Your Gut That Make You Sick

5 Simple Steps To Cure IBS Without Drugs

Is Your Inner Tube Making You Sick?

Coping with irritable bowel syndrome

Living with irritable bowel syndrome can be challenging, painful, and embarrassing, and it can affect your quality of life. We have compiled some ways to cope with the condition that may help to take the edge off the unpleasant symptoms you experience from irritable bowel syndrome.

Share on PinterestCoping with IBS can be challenging, but there are steps that can help you to deal with the associated symptoms.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common gastrointestinal disorder that affects more than 10 percent of adults in the United States, only 5 to 7 percent of whom have received a diagnosis. The condition is twice as likely to occur in women than men and usually happens in people aged 45 and younger.

IBS causes abdominal discomfort, gas, and changes in the patterns of your bowel movements, as well as diarrhea or constipation. The cause of IBS is largely unknown, which hampers the development of effective treatments.

However, there seem to be common triggers for IBS, such as certain foods, stress, and hormonal changes, although these can vary from person to person.

Working out what sparks and eases your IBS can help you to manage the condition and regain control of your life. Here are five steps you can take to avoid triggers, prevent symptom flare-ups, and cope with IBS.

1. Alter your diet

Making simple changes to your diet can often provide relief from your IBS symptoms. There is no specific IBS diet as such, and what works for one person may not work for another. Diet-related changes that will work best for you will depend on your symptoms and your reaction to particular foods.

Share on PinterestIncreasing your intake of fiber may ease your IBS symptoms.

Keeping a food diary can help you to identify the foods that either improve or exacerbate your symptoms. Track the foods that you eat, the symptoms you have, and when they occur.

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, foods and drinks that have been shown to worsen IBS symptoms include:

  • high-fat foods
  • some milk products
  • alcoholic drinks
  • caffeine
  • drinks high in artificial sweeteners
  • beans, cabbage, and other gas-causing foods

The International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders also highlight insoluble fiber, chocolate, and nuts as foods that are likely to cause problems.


Increasing your fiber intake may help to improve your symptoms of constipation caused by IBS. Foods that contain fiber include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans. Adults are recommended to consume 22 to 34 grams of fiber each day.

When adding more fiber to your diet, slowly increase the amount by 2 to 3 grams per day. Adding too much fiber to your diet in one go can cause gas and bloating and make you feel even more abdominal discomfort.

Low FODMAP diet

If you experience bloating, a low fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols (FODMAP) diet may be effective. These are all types of carbohydrates that are poorly absorbed in the small intestine. There are five groups of FODMAPs:

  • fructans, including wheat, rye, onion, broccoli, and garlic
  • galacto-oligosaccharides, including chickpeas, lentils, soy products, and kidney beans
  • lactose, including cow’s milk, ice cream, yogurt, and cottage cheese
  • excess fructose, including apples, mangoes, pears, watermelon, and honey
  • polyols, including nectarines, peaches, plums, cauliflower, and mushrooms

Researchers suggest that FODMAPs increase water in the small intestine, which may contribute to the loose stools and diarrhea in IBS.

What is more, FODMAPs pass into the large intestine, where billions of bacteria ferment them, resulting in gas and bloating. Reducing your FODMAP intake may improve these symptoms.

Some people have symptoms triggered by one or two FODMAPs, while others have a problem with all five. Foods should only be restricted if they contribute to your IBS symptoms.

Seeking guidance from a dietitian can help you to eliminate high FODMAP foods and then slowly reintroduce them to find a level of tolerance that is suitable for you.

2. Increase physical activity

Increasing your exercise levels may provide some relief from IBS. Exercise helps to stimulate normal contractions of your intestines and reduce stress, which relieves some IBS symptoms.

Share on PinterestExercising for 20 to 30 minutes per day may improve IBS-related pain and stool problems.

Research has shown that taking part in 20 to 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise between three and five times per week significantly improved abdominal pain, stool problems, and quality of life compared with a control group.

Furthermore, being physically active regularly prevented IBS symptoms from deteriorating.

If you have not exercised for a while, it is best to build up the frequency and duration of physical activity slowly. Your goal is to reach 30 minutes of exercise five times per week – as recommended by the American Heart Association (AHA).

3. Reduce stress

Physical or psychological stressors, such as a bowel infection or a change to your job, can cause a disturbance in the complex interactions between the brain and the digestive system and therefore exacerbate symptoms of IBS.

Share on PinterestRelaxation techniques may reduce your stress levels and IBS symptoms.

You may find that you experience symptom relief and improved well-being by incorporating relaxation techniques into your day. Whether you have 5 minutes to spare each day or 1 hour, regular relaxation exercises will help you to feel in control of your symptoms.

Using deep relaxation techniques such as abdominal breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and visualization is associated with many health benefits, including:

  • reduced anxiety
  • improved memory and concentration
  • increased productivity and energy levels
  • improved sleep
  • decreased fatigue
  • reduced muscle tension

Practicing relaxation techniques will help you to take positive steps to address your IBS symptoms and prepare you to deal with any further stress that may come your way in the future.

Meditation, getting counseling and support, taking part in regular exercise, and getting enough sleep can also help you to manage your stress levels.

4. Try IBS medications

It is not clear what causes irritable bowel syndrome, so treatments aim to relieve symptoms to allow you to live as normally as possible. If your symptoms are not alleviated by changes in your diet, lifestyle, and stress levels, your healthcare provider may suggest you try medications. These include:

Share on PinterestMedications are available for IBS and to tackle the individual symptoms of IBS.

  • Fiber supplements. Psyllium (Metamucil) or methylcellulose (Citrucel) may help to control constipation.
  • Osmotic laxatives. Milk of magnesia or polyethylene glycol may help with constipation.
  • Anti-diarrheal medications. Loperamide (Imodium) may reduce diarrhea in IBS.
  • Antispasmodic medications. Hyoscyamine (Levsin) and dicyclomine (Bentyl) may contribute to reducing bowel spasms.
  • Antidepressant medications. Low doses of tricyclic antidepressants and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors may help with symptoms of pain or depression.
  • Antibiotics. Rifaximin (Xifaxan) could potentially help with treating small intestinal bacterial overgrowth – although more research is needed.
  • Peppermint oil capsules may reduce IBS symptoms.

Medications have also been approved that have been shown to be effective in treating multiple symptoms of IBS. These include:

  • Alosetron (Lotronex), which relaxes the colon and slows the movement of waste through the lower bowel to reduce diarrhea and abdominal pain.
  • Lubiprostone (Amitiza), which increases fluid secretion in the small intestine to help the stool move along more easily.
  • Eluxadoline (Viberzi), which reduces abdominal pain and improves the consistency of stools.
  • Linaclotide (Linzess), which blocks pain signals and increases the passage of contents through the gastrointestinal tract.

Some studies suggest that probiotics might help with symptoms of IBS. However, not all probiotics have the same effect and their benefits are currently unclear.

5. Consider psychological interventions

If you are still having trouble with IBS symptoms after exploring all of the methods listed above, you might want to consider psychological therapy to help improve your symptoms.

Talking therapy

Share on PinterestTalking therapies such as CBT and psychodynamic therapy can help to treat IBS.

Healthcare professionals use cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and psychodynamic therapy to treat IBS.

CBT focuses on your thoughts and actions, while psychodynamic therapy concentrates on what effect your emotions have on your symptoms of IBS.

Talking therapies involve stress management and relaxation techniques.

Gut-related hypnotherapy

Some research has suggested that hypnotherapy improves IBS-related anxiety, depression, gastrointestinal symptoms, and quality of life.

During gut-related hypnotherapy, a therapist uses hypnosis to help you learn to relax your colon muscles and regain control of your physiological responses.

Mindfulness training

Practicing mindfulness can help you to focus your attention on sensations that are occurring in the present, instead of becoming stressed about those sensations and worrying about what they might mean.

Through mindfulness, you can develop awareness of your mind and body and relax, which may help to reduce the IBS symptoms and increase your physical and mental well-being.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to dealing with IBS. But by trying different combinations of diet, exercise, stress management, medications, and psychological therapies, you should be on your way to reduced discomfort from the symptoms of IBS.

Page 1 of 4

By: Douglas A Drossman, MD, Center for Education and Practice of Biopsychosocial Care, Center for Functional GI and Motility Disorders at UNC, and Drossman Gastroenterology,
Chapel Hill, NC


Pain, by definition, is the dominant symptom experienced by patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Three out of 4 people with IBS report continuous or frequent abdominal pain, with pain the primary factor that makes their IBS severe. Importantly, and unlike chronic pain in general, IBS pain is often associated with alterations in bowel movements (diarrhea, constipation, or both).

The standard general definition for pain is, an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience that’s associated with actual or perceived damage to the body. Pain that is short-lived is termed acute, while pain that lasts 6 months or longer is termed chronic. Chronic pain may be constant or recurring frequently for extended periods of time.

The chronic pain in IBS can be felt anywhere in the abdomen (belly), though is most often reported in the lower abdomen. It may be worsened soon after eating, and relieved or at times worsened after a bowel movement. It is not always predictable and may change over time. People with IBS use different descriptors to explain how the pain feels; some examples include cramping, stabbing, aching, sharp or throbbing.

IBS is a long-term condition that is challenging both to patients and healthcare providers. It affects 10–15% of adults. Less than half of those see a doctor for their symptoms. Yet patients with IBS consume more overall health care than those without IBS. The primary reason people with IBS see a clinician is for relief of abdominal pain.

Standard diagnostic test results are normal in people with IBS. Diagnosis is based on certain symptoms that meet defined criteria.

How can IBS be so painful when nothing irregular shows up on tests?

The answer is that IBS is a condition where the symptoms relate to alterations in normal gastrointestinal function; that is, dysregulation of brain and gut affecting both pain signals and motility (movement of the bowels).

The aim of this publication is to explain this relationship between the brain and the gut in order to help those affected understand why and how pain in IBS occurs, and how it can be confidently managed.

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8 Tips for Getting Through an IBS Flare-Up

How to Use Food, Breath and Natural Remedies to Calm Your Body

When a rumble in your stomach turns into a painful cramp, you know your irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is about to take over. Your body tenses, your worries spike, and your mind races to thoughts of the nearest bathroom. Whether you’re in your own home or in the middle of an event, it’s never fun to deal with a flare-up, and depending on your next steps, it can get worse before it gets better.

Since each body is different, it can be tough to know how best to proceed during an IBS flare-up, but there are a few methods to help calm your intestines, soothe your stomach, and make the pain much more manageable. These eight tips will help your body and mind get through the attack more comfortably.

Calm Your Mind

You may not experience the very same symptoms or triggers as the next person, but all IBS sufferers do share one common enemy — stress. Your first priority should be to cut down stressful situations; while you may not be able to get rid of all the stress in your life, you can certainly ease its impact by taking charge of your thoughts and emotions.

The calmer your mind, the calmer your symptoms, so learn techniques to soothe yourself and snuff out your worries. It’s natural to fear the worst when you feel that first sharp cramp, but it’s important to tell yourself to slow down and trust that your body will hold it in for at least a few minutes.

The idea is to give yourself time and mental space to control your symptoms while you find a bathroom — remember that panicking will make physical processes much more difficult to control.

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