It can be so frustrating to be stopped in your tracks by an IBS flare up. Perhaps your belly has swelled up so you look pregnant, or you’re rushing to the loo every 10 minutes so can’t leave the house.

Read on for my tips on how to support your body and mind during a flare up of your irritable bowel symptoms.

How do you calm IBS?

The best thing to do during an IBS flare is to look after yourself and take some time out to recover. The following ideas may help you next time you get  your symptoms flare up:

  1. Heat packs or hot water bottles on your stomach can ease pains or feeling of sensitivity
  2. Try drinking some soothing teas for digestion – Read about the Best teas for IBS
  3. Wear comfortable clothes with a soft expanding waistline to accommodate any bloating
  4. Take a warm bath to help yourself relax and soothe your stomach
  5. Snuggle up in bed and allow yourself to rest whenever you can
  6. Try some gentle movement to help ease gas and stomach pains
  7. Eat low FODMAP foods for a few days to ease your way through the flare (see below for more on how to do this). Read more about the low FODMAP diet for IBS – What is the FODMAP diet?

There isn’t a ‘one pill cure’ for IBS flare ups like some health conditions, so unfortunately you may need to try a combination of these activities. I’ve found that clients who combine some basic self care, some gentle movement and diet changes tend to get over the flare up more quickly.  


What causes irritable bowel attacks?

The most frustrating thing is that even when you are doing everything ‘right’ you may still get an attack of IBS.

Usually it’s due to eating something that didn’t agree with you, or something that happened to stress or upset you.

You may often link your IBS symptoms to something you ate, but it could also be related to how you were feeling.

We know that our mental state has a large part to play in digestive symptoms.

  • Stress – When we’re stressed we will have less energy for digestion, which means foods aren’t broken down as well by the process of digestion, so they cause bloating and sensitivity. This could be coupled with pain, and either diarrhoea or constipation.
  • Lack of sleep – when we’re tired we feel more pain so you may be more sensitive to symptoms. We also tend to eat more sugary, carb heavy foods when tired which can affect gut health. Related post – Sleep and Gut Health
  • Diet – Eating something that doesn’t agree with you can cause an IBS flare up – this will be different for everyone, but could be too much fibre, coffee, alcohol, sweeteners, dairy, high protein diet, very greasy foods, or processed foods.
  • Menstrual cycle – women may find symptoms worse just before or around their period. This is because the hormones that make the uterus contract to release the lining, also affect the intestines which are nearby. This can lead to more cramps and pains. 

Your 7 day low FODMAP meal plan

A tasty 7 day meal plan with over 25 healthy meals for easing IBS flares

What to eat during an IBS flare

Some of my clients find that eating foods lower in fermentable carbohydrates during a flare up of IBS can improve symptoms.

FODMAPs are in common healthy foods, but in some people with IBS they can cause bloating, gas, cramps or diarrhoea. Around 75% of people who try the low FODMAP diet feel better after the dietary intervention. 

Example low FODMAP foods you CAN eat includes chicken, tofu, oats, eggs, grapes, melon, potato, rice, peppers, broccoli and many more.

I find some of my clients struggle to put these foods into a normal meal, so I created the 7 day Meal plan. Try it for a low FODMAP selection of healthy recipes to try as part of tasty meals.

How long does an IBS flare last?

Everything with IBS is very individual but you should experience an upset stomach for around 2-4 days before things settle down again.

If you’re not getting better, and the flare seems to be lasting for longer than usual you may need to speak to a doctor to confirm there is nothing else going on. 

What does an IBS flare feel like?

Your IBS flare symptoms may include

  • bloating or swelling in your tummy
  • excess gas (with or without odour)
  • diarrhoea
  • constipation
  • abdominal pains
  • feeling sensitive around your digestion
  • feeling like you haven’t been able to fully empty bowels

If you’re ready to identify what triggers your IBS flare ups then please get in touch. I can help you, as I’ve helped many other people already find a diet that works. See me a message to get started on your nutrition journey.

Your 7 day low FODMAP meal plan

A tasty 7 day meal plan with over 25 healthy meals for easing IBS flares

Hi I'm Anna Mapson, registered Nutritional Therapist.

I help people with IBS, SIBO get control of unpredictable gut symptoms to find long term relief from painful and embarrassing IBS without restrictive dieting.

I can help you to:

  • understand your digestion better, so you recognise your triggers
  • eat a well balanced diet, with tasty meals that are simple to prepare
  • develop better digestion and more energy

“Anna is amazing! I feel totally transformed"

Find more about 1:1 Gut Reset programme