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Flip-Flop Flail: Navigating IBS Flares

Last updated: February 2022

I was diagnosed with IBS well over 2 decades ago. In all this time, I have learned a lot. The most important lesson I have learned is I have no idea what to expect. Anything I think I have learned about living with IBS is subject to change at any time.

My reaction to certain foods may change. My reaction to stress may change. With IBS-M, the type of flare I have may be very different from the type of flare I expect. Everything I think I know is actually a guess. I am a phony fortune-teller, guessing and hoping I am right.

Reactions to foods vary over time

In recent years, I have noticed my reaction to certain foods is not always the same. I have an ongoing love affair with Mexican food, and I have always assumed it triggered IBS-D flares. I am rethinking that assumption. An IBS-D flare might be much worse after eating Mexican food, but did eating Mexican food actually trigger the flare or just worsen it?

I thought certain foods were actual triggers, but maybe they are not. Maybe foods are not the actual trigger. Perhaps certain foods agitate rather than initiate a flare. Perhaps flares come and go with no provocation. It seems that might be the case.

Fasting does not prevent flares

I know that raised some eyebrows, but it is the truth. Fasting does not prevent a flare, and here is why I say that: I can still have symptoms of a flare even if I am fasting. I have still had cramps and bloating while fasting. Do you know why I believed fasting prevented flares? I believed this because I was not running back and forth to the bathroom.

Just because my digestive system is empty and has nothing inside to send me running to the bathroom does not mean I am not having a flare. It means I deprived my body of food to keep from running to the bathroom or having an accident. I may lessen the symptoms or I might get lucky and the fasting break lets my digestive system calm down, but I no longer think fasting prevents flares.

What actually causes a flare?

The answer to that question is IBS. IBS causes a flare. What I call a trigger food might actually trigger a flare or it might just be agitating a flare. I really do not know which it is. Eating foods I thought caused an IBS-D flare seems to have as much chance of being followed by an IBS-C flare.

I do know fasting does not prevent a flare because I have had symptoms the entire time I have fasted many times. Fasting definitely does not end a flare for me. It might prevent me from running back and forth to the bathroom and it may reduce the severity of other symptoms. Still, the minute I resume eating the one symptom it totally relieved will reappear. I will be running for the bathroom once more.

Flip-flop flail is my method of coping with IBS

My flip-flopping understanding of IBS makes about as much sense as IBS. It will never really make sense. As much as I try to understand it and attempt to ease my suffering, it never seems to be truly effective. I am simply flailing around and hoping for the best.

How do you handle the ever-changing symptoms of IBS?

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