In the process of pinpointing what triggers your IBS symptoms, you’re probably going to experience some pain and suffering along the way. As I write this, I am recovering from an awful, sleepless night after waking up at 3:30am with severe abdominal pain and bloating, caused by 3 devilish chili cheese fries off a friends’ plate earlier in the night. It’s now 7:00pm and I am feeling better, yet not 100% recovered from the abdominal pain.
Is 24 hours of severe pain worth 3 chili cheese fries? Definitely not. I was thinking that my digestive system could handle the small amount of fat and spices in those fries, but I was terribly wrong. Lesson learned.
So, what is my process to ease my IBS abdominal pain, bloating and gas when it flares up? Here are the steps I take:
- Immediately take a peppermint oil capsule. Studies have shown that peppermint soothes cramps and eases abdominal pain within the digestive tract. There are a number of brands available on the market, but I prefer Heather’s Tummy Tamers. I usually take one every morning prior to eating, as well as before any meals that may be risky. You can also substitute peppermint tea instead of the capsules.
- “Drink” a dose of Konsyl Natural Fiber. I use the word drink in quotations because it’s tough to choke down. It does not mix well with liquid because it absorbs the liquid instead, so the consistency is best described as lumpy. However, I have seen a large improvement in preventing my IBS pain since my doctor recommended this supplement, so it makes it worth it. If you try it, ensure you shake it vigorously (instead or stirring), which allows it to blend with the liquid much better. I take this twice a day, before breakfast and dinner, and mix it with Vitamin Water Zero, which improves the taste significantly.
- Drink plenty of water. This is difficult at times because your body will feel very full, but water will help flush your digestive system quicker.
- Use a heating pad. While there’s no studies that indicate a heating pad works as a treatment for abdominal pain, I feel it helps my comfort level when I am laying down trying to get some rest. I utilize this tactic most often when my IBS abdominal pain wakes me up in the middle of the night and I am trying to get back to sleep.
- Do a little Yoga. Stretching out my body always helps relax my body and mind. It also helps to remove some excess gas at times. Some of my go-to moves are child pose, hare pose, spinal twists, sun salutation, wind freeing pose, half-cobra pose, and half-moon pose. I am also a huge fan of yogadownload.com, where you can have a subscription to do yoga right in your living room. If you’ve ever farted in a regular yoga class, you know how valuable this is!
- Take your mind off the pain. For me, I am usually not in the mood to do anything too strenuous, so I usually take the opportunity to put my efforts into some light housework, cooking meals, or writing this blog. All of those items require me to think of other things besides my pain and it will lower my stress level, which can make pain worsen. The activity has to challenge my brain a little, so for example, this morning after I gave up on sleeping, I reorganized the pantry, washed the dishes, paid the monthly bills and packed away all my winter boots.
- Eat smart. Most times, I am not hungry when abdominal pain strikes. However, it’s still important to fuel your body throughout the day. This is the time when you should rely heavily on your safe foods, such as brown rice or plain grilled chicken, and eat slowly in small quantities. Today, I enjoyed a small serving of my homemade mashed potatoes, a plain grilled chicken breast and some Glutino Gluten Free Pretzels.
- Take a prescription pain reliever. For me, I don’t like to be heavily medicated on prescription drugs because the side effects reek havoc on my body. However, in severe IBS abdominal pain situations, I will take a prescription pain reliever. It eases the pain, but it does make me feel very light-headed and I have difficulty focusing and thinking clearly, which is a issue when I have to work. Since starting on the low FODMAP diet, I have limited this method to about 2-3 times a month.
What works well for my body may not be the ideal fit for you, so use my methods as you see fit. It took me a long time to get the method down, but now I feel a little more confident when my IBS symptoms make an appearance.
It’s much better to prevent IBS symptoms than to have to deal with them later, but as you learn what foods in what quantities your system can handle, it’s good to have a back-up plan.
I love your blog! Sounds like you and I have had very similar experiences with IBS. I too gave up wheat and dairy and had quite a bit of symptom improvement…at first. Then I got worse again. I’d be a total mess if I hadn’t come across the FODMAPs diet. I too have felt it was going to be impossible to follow consistently (especially when eating out–you never know what’s in those sauces, right?)–in fact, I’ve gone through periods of pretty severe self-pity 😉 But all it takes to get back on the wagon is the odd bite of something bad and the subsequent pain. I don’t see that we have any choice; if we want to feel even half-way decent, this is how we’re going to have to eat for the rest of our lives. (And you’re so right about label reading! It seems like EVERYTHING has onion, garlic, honey, HFC, or some other trigger ingredient! Bah!) It helps me to think of it not as deprivation, but as a challenge: how can I modify my recipes so they’re still delicious AND safe? How can I still enjoy eating in restaurants and not suffer for it later? The blogging is also therapy: the experience won’t be a total waste if what I discover helps even one other person feel a bit better. Perhaps you and I can encourage each other in our “mission”?
P.S. How do I follow you? I can’t seem to find a button on your site.
Cheers and best wishes,
Hi Barbara! Thank you for following. I do feel like we’re on a very similar path, and am happy to help in any way possible! I have crafted a pretty awesome salad dressing recipe which I hope to share soon, but I am still working on modifying other recipes (and I am not a brilliant cook). It’s definitely trial and error! Have you made a good pizza or pasta sauce yet? I am struggling with this one a bit. Let me know!
Oops–never mind the dumb question about how to follow you. I just saw the WordPress “follow” link at the top. Can you tell I’m new at this? :-p
Just wanted to thank you again for this blog. I love it that you’re using a sense of humor to write about our issues, and I definitely felt JUST like the fish in your photo at work today, LOL. 🙂
I recently tried Peppermint tea as soon as the cramping started and it worked! Thanks Heather!
I have found that a pot of Teapigs peppermint tea temples (tea bags to you and me!) in the morning when I wake up and just before I go to bed has really calmed my IBS. I’ve been doing this for a year now and found that I can reintroduce bread and small amounts of garlic/onions etc into my diet. The tea bags are expensive but very high in natural peppermint oil.
I like to use enteric coated peppermint. Enzymatic is the brand I use. It doesn’t release until it gets to your colon avoiding exacerbating acid refluv.
Hi Debra. I just saw your comment about the Teapigs peppermint tea. That is incredible that you found a way to calm your IBS! I too have IBS and it is a never-ending crisis. I was wondering if you would be willing to share your tip on NutmegAspirin.com. We are a new community and resource for sharing what works in the world of feeling, getting and being better. Similar to this blog, or IBS forums, we are here to help others discover a world of possibilities. We also intend to document and prove healing is real and not anecdotal. Think of us as a wiki of healing– all user generated content and personal experiences. We would love if you posted your tip!
I am sorry to say that after having a not real bad IBS day I decided to take the Tummie Tamers purchased at CVS. I had such severe contraction like pains, I seriously thought I might have to go to E.R. These will be going back to CVS for refund.
I’ve just discovered your blog, as I’m starting a low FODMAP diet per doctor’s orders due to IBS, slow motility and gastroparesis! So far I’m impressed with everything I’ve read, especially the suggestions on products and recipes. I normally look and feel like I’m 10 months pregnant – which is very distressing and painful. I was wondering if you would mind telling me what pain reliever you use when your symptoms are out of control? My Dr. has never offered one, but I’m ready to beg for some relief!
Also, do you use an APP on an iPad – for example to help with planning meals, snacks, and keeping track of your symptoms? I’ve discovered a few options, but it seems like you have a great handle on your own situation, so I thought you may have a recommendation.
Thank you for your time!
Hi Leslie, I currently take a lower dose Vicodin which does the trick on my very bad days (down to about once a month now). I was on Tramadol for a while, but the side effects were a little too much for me to bear (my mind would race… I would be thinking of 100 different things but couldn’t focus clearly on anything. This would keep me awake so I couldn’t get any rest). Ensure that your doctor knows how much pain you’re in and there shouldn’t be any issues with them prescribing something to keep you comfortable. Good luck!
Thank you so much Heather!
To answer your second question, I have done food diary apps specific to IBS and IBD, but the app I keep going back to is MyFitnessPal because it’s so easy to use. During the elimination phase, I used Evernote a lot to pinpoint specifics.
Great! I looked at MyFitnessPal so I’m glad we’re on the same wavelengths. Thanks again.
Morning Heather. You mention Chronic Fatigue in one of your cartoon drawings. As well as all the other symptoms, I am also suffering from this. Pains in limbs, absolutely no energy what so ever etc. Yours is the only site that mentions this for IBS, as far as I can see. I am virtually chair bound – even picking up an item can be an impossible task. Does this go once the Fodmaps have done their work, or is this it for life?
While the low FODMAP diet doesn’t have a direct fix for chronic fatigue, I did find a little more energy when the stomach pain went away and I was able to exercise more frequently. I take Vitamin B12 in the morning to help with the fatigue, as well. Talk to your doctor and see if there’s anything else he/she would recommend. Good luck!
I had an awful night too. I wanted to cry, then I read this post and the graphics made me laugh so hard I am definetly crying with laughter! Thank you. I have no idea why I’m so I’ll but I think an indulgence in whipped cream, junk in “GF” foods (like guar gum) or probiotics did me in. Bless.
What about the stevia in the Vitamin Water Zero? I thought it was a no-no for IBS-D.
Stevia is tested as low FODMAP by Monash University.
You have all helped me so much with your attitudes and comments. I was feeling so sorry for myself and so alone. I have gone from a constipation phase to the windy runs! Fodmap helps and I need to get back to where I was when I first tried it 12months ago.
Good luck everyone.
Thanks for another perspective. I was officially diagnosed with IBS 6+ years ago and had been doing relatively well with the recommended diet at helpforibs.com, especially after using their Senegal acacia fiber product faithfully twice a day and the 100-day hypnotherapy CD program targeted to IBS patients. However the last few months things haven’t been going too well and the flares have been frequent and uncomfortable. I’m scheduled to see a GI doctor for reevaluation in two weeks and her web page recommends the FODMAP diet, in much less detail than you’ve provided here. I’m guessing this is relatively new information, not readily available when I was first diagnosed. Reading your lists, I found out there’s a large disconnect between Heather’s diet at helpforibs.com and your FODMAP lists (eg I’ve been eating ripe bananas and avocados almost every day, plus lots of the forbidden fruits). Fortunately I’d just started trying gluten free a month ago and have been basically dairy free from the beginning, to eliminate casein, NOT lactose (even trying lactose free dairy products didn’t make any difference for me). I also can’t eat high-fat foods, red meat or soy. And I also have GERD, which eliminates a lot of acidic foods and peppermint, in addition to the things I’m already not eating. So on to eliminating more foods and hope for the best. The biggest challenge is to keep from losing more weight.
If you use enteric coated peppermint it won’t affect GERD. .
I am new to this and mildly freaking out over the tummy cramps!
Best remedies I’ve found for abdominal cramps: heating pad on your tummy (I use a microwaveable one), Heather’s Fennel Tea, as much as you need. May take an hour or two, but they do help.
Feel better soon!
Hi Robin. I just saw your comment about your remedies for IBS. I too have IBS and it is a never-ending crisis. These remedies sound easy and effective. I was wondering if you would be willing to share your tip on NutmegAspirin.com. We are a new community and resource for sharing what works in the world of feeling, getting and being better. Similar to this blog, or IBS forums, we are here to help others discover a world of possibilities. We also intend to document and prove healing is real and not anecdotal. Think of us as a wiki of healing– all user generated content and personal experiences. We would love if you posted your tip!
Lovely blog! Very informative, clear and easy to read. After trawling through a number of sites yours was definitely the most useful. Love the graphics as well =) Completely agree on the Low FODMAP diet. Best thing I ever did and has reduced my IBS symptoms significantly. Not easy to do though – paying for the pleasure with a private nutritionist actually helped a lot as (a) She was very encouraging and pushed me to keep going, and (b) I didn’t want me money to go to waste!
No seems to mention going to an allergist. Finding out I am allergic, not lactose intolerant helped. Ice cream is one big bad boy. Also allergic to almonds, hazelnuts bananas & soy. That leaves rice milk or coconut milk. Avoiding these foods didn’t cure my IBS, but these foods were intensifying my problem.
I heard soybean allergeries have dramatically increased. Some say it is the genetically modified food . Any thoughts on this?
nothing helps me. help and to make matters worse i have a severe high ankle spprain that wont heal and i can;t pain killers cause my ibs gets 10 times worse
nothing helps me, I have to go to the bathroom when I have to pass gas, I have had numerous accidents, to the point that I have to wear depends. its so embrassing that I have to keep extras in my car even toilet paper because it comes when I least expect it. I can’t even enjoy being close to my husband for fear of having an accident. I don’t know what to do. I am seeing a doctor but to no avail nothing seems to control my symptoms. can someone help me.
I have been suffering with stomach spasms or intestinal spasms from IBS for over 10 years. The pain is so bad that I Keel over. I finally found a doctor after many years of experimenting to find out what was wrong. After ending up in the ER one night they gave me a cocktail which contained Belladonna and phenobarbital. The mix stopped my spasms in their tracks. I had it prescribed but they stopped making it so I decided to try organic Belladonna from the health store. It’s in a small vial and it says Belladonna 30C I got mine from Mother Earth. They are extremely tiny little balls I take three of them and it helps my stomach very quickly. It is such a lifesaver. I hope this can help someone else whose had to deal with tossing and turning night after night not being able to sleep due to this pain. Please, comment if it helps you. Thanks.
Has anyone considered FMT (Faecal Microbial Transplant? This is suggested in Dr Michael Mosley’s book the Clever Guts diet. Apparently has a 94 percent success rate for IBS.
IBS mainly affects me before I sleep and when I wake up. I think it’s due to the fact that in both scenarios, my stomach is empty. Does anyone have any remedies for the pain?
Oh my I think I have had IBS my whole life but now I am in high exacerbation mode. I gave up dairy a few years ago after an elimination diet to get to the bottom of GERD and LpR issues and it did also reduce my bloating and gas. When I go in a low carb diet my bloating and gas improves also. Here is my problem with the ibs diet and the fodpap diets and blogs. They all have different information! Some say eat bananas and potatoes others say never eat them. Those are just an example. Hopefully I can find a site with all the right information. Your blog was pretty helpful with tips but some contradict other sites. I know I will need to do the elimination diet again and find my new triggers. It would just be nice to know what safe foods can you eat with a flair up. This week end I think I will try the bone broth fast.
I understand your confusion and share it. My doc told me about the FODMAP diet a few years ago and when I took a quick look I figured I was pretty much following it anyway. What’s the big deal? Ha, how naive was I?
As my IBS worsened and more and more foods were unbearable I turned to the SCD diet. It worked for a year then things got worse. I pinpointed it to fruit, especially apples then butternut squash (my knowledge has now expanded to accept that Butternut squash is a starch after all I was depriving myself of starches). Both big no-nos in the FODMAP world.
After researching the FODMAP diet, scientifically it makes sense! I went for a colonoscopy and specialist confirmed IBS with tortuous colon. Lucky me! Out with SCD and in this FODMAP because I was down to eating chicken, carrots, almonds, spinach, avocados, home made broth with garlic, onions and celery. SCD only allows honey so yes had that with my honey garlic chicken wings. I think you can see where I am going with this. Not knocking the SCD diet, just saying it is not for me!
Next plan of attack is asking to see a dietitian. I would love to be able to eat oats and rice again. Tried rice last weekend and oh no, no sleep that night. It’s rice! So frustrating. But learning more about this style of eating taught me about limited quantities. Gone are the days of eating handfuls of almonds. Had no idea besides I was so hungry and don’t get me starting on the lack of energy!!.
So all that ranting, I agree how some FODMAP diets say yes to one food but another says no. I suppose we have to be willing to experiment at the risk of what we are all trying to avoid — pain and discomfort.