Creating a Bag of Tricks

Have you ever noticed that when you’re feeling sick (or when you experience a flare of IBS), your mind doesn’t work as well as it usually does? It’s more difficult to remember things, including remedies that can help you feel better. I think of how when I have a cold, my mom always reminds me to drink lots of fluids. It’s advice I know and appreciate, and yet when she says it to me during times when I’m sick, I realize I haven’t been drinking enough fluids. For this reason, I think it’s helpful to create a list of things that work for you to help during times of an IBS flare. Consider it your own bag of tricks.

The challenges of managing IBS

IBS is challenging because what works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another. Some of us have IBS-D (predominantly diarrhea), others have IBS-C (predominantly constipation), while still others have IBS-M (mixed, or both diarrhea and constipation). So there will be some remedies or treatments that are indicated for one type of IBS and not another.

In addition, sometimes there’s variation even within yourself. What works to calm or prevent a flare one time may not work another time. This can be extremely frustrating, as it seems like your digestive health is a moving target. While resources here on and Dr. Google can be helpful for learning what has worked for others, creating your own list of remedies can provide reminders and inspiration when you need the help the most.

Start here

It’s handy to keep this list either in physical or digital form, where you can access it when you need it. I like to use the Notes app on my phone, but you can also keep a tangible list on your fridge or in a journal.

Think of anything that has helped in the past. Consider foods and drinks that calm your digestion, activities or relaxation techniques that make you feel better, and people or books that provide support and inspiration. Also note what medications, herbs, or essential oils have helped you. You can also add things to your list that may not be specifically about IBS but that you find comforting.

Some of the tricks on my list include:

  • Peppermint or ginger tea
  • Lots of water, perhaps adding lemon or cucumber slices for variety
  • Applying a few drops of DigestZen essential oil blend to my abdomen
  • Heating pad
  • Gentle exercises, such as walking, stretching, or yoga
  • Taking a break and sitting on the couch with my cat
  • Getting out in nature, for a walk or even finding a relaxing spot to just sit and listen to the birds for a few minutes
  • Getting acupuncture

We tend to focus on what doesn’t work – the foods we no longer can eat or tolerate, or the activities we miss out on due to our health challenges. For this exercise, try to keep an open mind and focus on the positive. Anything that has made even a slight improvement in your IBS symptoms can be added to your bag of tricks.

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