Irritable bowel syndrome is no laughing matter. This condition causes extreme pain throughout the abdomen.
Before a diagnosis, people typically suffer for long periods of time wondering what’s triggering their excruciating pain.
Here’s the good news: IBS doesn’t increase your risk for colorectal cancer or change your intestinal tissue in any way: it’s just uncomfortable.
More good news: you can reduce your IBS symptoms by changing your diet and lifestyle. Although that’s a lot easier said than done.
In order to change the environmental factors, you need to understand what causes IBS flare ups and which foods to avoid.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Causes and Symptoms
Irritable bowel syndrome causes differ from person to person. Doctors can’t necessarily be sure what causes IBS because it could manifest from a broad range of conditions.
Certain irritable bowel syndrome causes might include:
- Abdominal muscle contractions
- Nervous system disorders
- Intestinal inflammation
- Imbalanced immune system
- Intestinal infection or food poisoning
- Imbalanced gut flora
Symptoms can also differ from person to person. One symptom remains constant: intense abdominal pain.
- Excessive gas
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Pain, cramping, or bloating in the abdomen
- Mucus in your stool
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms or any serious complications such as weight loss, blood in your stool, or excruciating pain, it’s important to see a doctor immediately.
What Causes IBS Flare-Ups?
What causes IBS flare-ups? Well, lots of environmental factors.
It’s impossible to say what exactly causes your IBS flare-ups because everyone is different and lives unique lifestyles. You’ll need to take a look at the list below and evaluate your habits to determine what’s causing your IBS flare-ups.
Since IBS affects your digestive system, it makes sense that foods directly trigger IBS flare-ups. It’s rare that an allergy causes IBS flare-ups, but certain substances could trigger inflammation or irritability in your gut which leads to abdominal discomfort and pain.
Stress and mental health conditions
Excess cortisol from stress along with mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression can trigger IBS flare-ups. Stress can also cause ulcers and other digestive health issues.
Women are twice as likely to experience IBS flare-ups due to fluctuations in estrogen. In fact, many women experience heightened IBS symptoms during their menstrual periods.
IBS: Foods to Avoid and Tips for Avoiding Flare-Ups
It can be difficult to change your hormones, and you might not want to do that. You can, however, control other environmental factors that contribute to your IBS symptoms – especially food and stress.
Irritable bowel syndrome foods to avoid
Be ready to go through some trial and error methods. What triggers your friend’s IBS might not trigger yours. Try cutting out certain foods and see what works for your personal condition.
- Alcohol, caffeine, and carbonated drinks
- Refined (not whole) grains like packaged cereals and crackers
- High protein fats
- Fried foods
- High salt foods
- Dairy products
- Foods of varying temperatures (don’t immediately go from hot soup to ice cream)
Foods to consume
Gradually introduce high-fiber foods into your diet. Start out small to avoid aggravating your gut or becoming constipated. Fruits with high sorbitol levels can also help to reduce IBS symptoms.
- Brown rice
- Whole wheat
- Greens and other high-fiber veggies
- Fruits like plums and prunes
- Lots of water
Tips and tricks
Changing your diet is important, but you need to take steps to reduce your stress and improve your overall wellbeing, too. Your mental and physical health plays an important role in maintaining a healthy gut.
- Get at least 30 minutes of exercise each day. This can even include a low-intensity walk after dinner.
- Take steps to improve your mental health by practicing deep breathing exercises, yoga, meditation, or seeking counseling.
- Find out what’s causing your stress and try to change things within your locus of control.
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