1. Avoid high-FODMAP foods
It's difficult to know what foods to eat with an IBS flare up, with foods that are high in ‘FODMAPS’ (small carbohydrate molecules that cause bacteria in the gut to release gas) often triggering IBS symptoms. A diet low in FODMAPs reduces symptoms of IBS in most people.
To calm an IBS flare-up, avoid high-FODMAP foods such as:
-Fructans (a fructose molecule that stores carbohydrates): such as garlic, onion, wheat, rye, and broccoli
-Oligosaccharides (a type of carbohydrate): such as chickpeas, lentils, tofu, and beans
-Lactose and dairy: Such as cow’s milk, yogurt, and ice-cream
-Fructose (fruit sugar): such as apples, mangoes, watermelon, and honey
-Polyols (naturally occurring sugar alcohols): such as nectarines, peaches, plums, cauliflower, and mushrooms
2. Try gut-directed hypnotherapy
You might not have heard of hypnotherapy as a treatment for health conditions, but it’s been proven to help IBS symptoms and can even treat other conditions such as chronic pain or smoking addiction. In hypnotherapy, you are gently brought into a relaxed and focused state, where you then use visualizations and suggestions to improve your gut-brain connection. It's one of the best natural remedies for IBS flare ups and requires no drugs or diets to see results.
A recent study showed that gut-directed hypnotherapy is equally effective as the low-FODMAP diet in reducing IBS symptoms—which is good news for people wanting to improve their symptoms without overhauling their diet and lifestyle. Gut-directed hypnotherapy has been shown to significantly reduce symptoms of IBS in over 50% of people. You can try gut-directed hypnotherapy by visiting a gut-directed hypnotherapist or using a mobile app like Nerva (based on this recent study).
3. Reduce stress
Stress can worsen symptoms of a flare-up because of the gut-brain connection (literally a chemical connection between your gut and brain). This is why relaxation techniques that work for the mind can also help calm the gut. Two common ways to reduce stress and episodes of IBS are:
-Mindfulness meditation: Meditation can calm the mind and the gut. In several studies, meditation was shown to lower gut symptoms of pain and bloating. Researchers believe this is due to reducing pain signals that can cause a flare-up of IBS symptoms.
-Yoga: Yoga is a mind and body practice that combines breathing with movement. In adolescents, it has been shown to reduce symptoms of IBS and anxiety.
4. Try peppermint oil
Peppermint oil is a herbal supplement that has been used as a natural remedy for centuries. It has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of IBS and is well supported by evidence from clinical studies. Peppermint oil is a great natural remedy for an IBS flare-up.
The active ingredient in peppermint oil is menthol, which has a cooling effect. Menthol dulls pain receptors and relaxes the muscles of the colon. Peppermint oil can help reduce pain, bloating, and constipation and has even been shown to be more effective than antispasmodics in relieving overall symptoms of IBS.
5. Reduce caffeine intake
Coffee and other sources of caffeine may worsen symptoms of IBS during a flare-up. Even without IBS, caffeine is known to have a laxative effect on the body with diarrhea being a common side-effect of overconsumption. One study showed coffee-drinkers were 50% more likely to develop IBS than those who did not drink coffee.
It’s best to avoid caffeine during a flare-up. Try cutting out all forms of caffeine—this means teas, soft drinks, coffee, and chocolate—and watch for any changes in your symptoms.
6. Heat therapy
Heat therapy is a traditional home remedy for pain and offers a gentler approach than taking medications when your stomach is already upset.
Heat therapy works by reducing blood flow to relax the muscles of the abdomen. It has been shown to relieve certain kinds of back pain more effectively than ibuprofen and is a good choice for treating pain in IBS.
Increasing your levels of exercise may provide relief from an IBS episode. Exercise helps relieve your symptoms as it can stimulate normal contractions of the intestines while also reducing stress.
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