Inflamed colon being bombarded by cold viruses

When a Cold Virus Amplifies IBS

Last updated: January 2020

It’s that time of year when there’s so much sniffling and sneezing around workplaces and public spaces. I thought I’d been doing a good job of avoiding the sick people, washing my hands thoroughly and regularly, and wiping down the surfaces I frequently touch. However, despite my best efforts to keep myself healthy and avoid germs, I recently caught a whopper of a respiratory virus.

Has anyone else noticed that when you get something as common as “the common cold,” you also experience a flare of IBS symptoms? In addition to the extra mucus, sore throat, and stuffy nose, my IBS has been terrible.

Everything piles on

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. I deal with a number of chronic conditions, and when one flares, the others generally do as well. So, it makes sense that a cold virus could also upset my system and cause a flare of IBS. But it’s annoying and frustrating to have the extra gastrointestinal symptoms to deal with in addition to the congestion, coughing, and overall fatigue.

Wondering about the microbiome

As always (it’s my nerdy obsession), my mind goes to thinking about the microbiome, the unique blend of microorganisms that live on and in our bodies. When the microbiome is healthy, there are many different strains of bacteria, fungi, and even viruses that help our bodies do a number of things, from synthesizing vitamins and hormones to helping our digestion and overall immune functioning. But when the microbiome gets out of balance, we can get sick in any number of ways. Scientists are still figuring out all the ways the microbiome works (and how to fix imbalances), but there’s proof it plays a role in IBS. While we think about cold viruses mainly impacting our respiratory system, everything’s connected, and when I think about how a cold virus most likely upsets my overall microbiome, it makes sense that it could also impact my IBS symptoms.

Remedies for recovery

For now, I’m following my tried and true remedies from a variety of sources (from mom to Mayo Clinic), including drinking lots of liquids (teas, soups, water, etc.), gargling with salt water for a sore throat, using saline nasal sprays, and using OTC medications like pain relievers or expectorants as needed.

I’m also increasing my intake of probiotics – both from supplements and fermented foods. I know they can help bring in healthy bacteria that will fight off the cold virus as well as help normalize my digestion, and fortunately, I’ve recently found a local producer of very tasty kimchi that I’m enjoying immensely.

Have you experienced more IBS symptoms when you have a cold? Got any cold remedies to share? Leave a comment below.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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