Blog Post

How to Manage an Intense IBS Flare-up

Bloating and diarrhea or constipation aren't always a sign of a problem – sometimes they happen after a night of binge eating or consuming something that doesn't “agree” with you.

However, severe gas, constipation, diarrhea, and bloating that don't seem to go away may be symptoms of a condition called irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS. Unfortunately, IBS can flare up, causing intense symptoms and extreme discomfort.

At Gateway Gastroenterology, our experienced gastroenterologists provide diagnostic tools and treatments for various conditions that affect your GI system. If you have an IBS flare and can't handle it on your own, our specialists offer multiple options for optimal relief.

What is irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)?

IBS comprises multiple symptoms that affect your intestines and gastrointestinal tract. IBS is a chronic condition that causes uncomfortable signs and symptoms, even though it doesn't lead to tissue damage.

The symptoms of IBS vary from person to person and may come and go. You may have periods of no symptoms (remission) or times when symptoms worsen (flares).

Doctors typically categorize IBS by how your bowel movements look on days you have severe symptoms. The common types of IBS are:

  • IBS with constipation
  • IBS with diarrhea
  • IBS with diarrhea and constipation

Each type of IBS has specific treatments, so knowing your symptoms is essential to finding the proper treatment. Many people can successfully manage IBS with lifestyle changes and eating habits.

Symptoms of a severe IBS flare

The symptoms of IBS come and go, but when you have a flare, they become much worse. During a flare, you may experience any of the following:

You may also feel like you can't seem to eliminate all the stool from your colon during a flare. Going to the bathroom often and straining or simply having bouts of diarrhea consecutively could be symptoms of an IBS flare.

Home management for IBS

An IBS flare may be challenging to treat immediately, but you can decrease the chances of another. You can use a heating pad, gently massage your stomach, or try over-the-counter medications for relief during a flare.

However, making permanent lifestyle changes is the key to preventing another flare. These changes may include:

  • Reducing stress
  • Engaging in exercise
  • Reducing caffeine intake
  • Avoiding gluten
  • Limiting carbonated beverages
  • Cutting back on alcohol

Another way to control IBS is following the low FODMAP diet. Foods in this diet are fermentable, oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols. FODMAP foods to avoid include:

  • Certain grains, such as wheat
  • Fruits like cherries or mangos
  • Soybeans and other legumes
  • Dairy products like yogurt and cheese

These foods release a lot of gas in the large intestine, causing extreme bloating and an uncomfortable feeling in the gut. They can also lead to cramping and other symptoms during a flare.

Other treatments for IBS flares

Many people can live comfortable everyday lives by simply changing their diet and removing FODMAP foods from their daily routine. However, if you still have IBS flares and feel like you’re  out of options, our team can help.

We can recommend certain over-the-counter medications such as simethicone, bismuth subsalicylate, or peppermint oil products. If these don't work, we can offer prescription medications as well, including:

  • Laxatives
  • Antibiotics
  • Antidepressants
  • Antispasmodics
  • Guanylate cyclase-C agonists

These medications, along with lifestyle changes, can significantly help you manage an IBS flare and, hopefully, prevent more from happening.

To get treatment for your IBS symptoms, don't hesitate to call for an appointment with one of our offices in Chesterfield, St. Louis, and Ballwin, Missouri, at 314-529-4900, or request a consultation on our website.