a woman lays on a couch at night, clutching her stomach in discomfort, kept awake, while a dog sleeps on the floor next to her

Can A Flare Be Just Bloating?

Recently, I have experienced a whole new side of my IBS: a flare that consisted of only bloating and pain. I have IBS-D, so episodes typically involve urgency and many trips to the bathroom. But not this one. This one was different.

When a safe food becomes an IBS trigger

It all started after dinner. A safe dinner, too. I had potatoes and an omelet with tomatoes in it, which is something I often make for our family when I'm too lazy to really cook. I’ve had this exact meal so many times, and it has never caused a flare before. Well, to be fair, it didn’t cause one of my typical flares this time either.

Maybe it was because I ate too much. Maybe it was because I had been sitting for most of the day (which always causes some bloating issues for me). All I know is that after having eaten, my stomach got all huge and uncomfortable.

Bloating is not fun

Now, I’m no stranger to bloating and the discomfort that comes with it. But for me, it’s usually just that: discomfort. I can still do things, and even though it can prevent me from having a good night’s sleep, I still usually am able to go to bed.

Not this time though. The familiar discomfort quickly turned to persistent pain in the left side of my belly. I seem to have very low pain tolerance, too, because I was not able to ignore it at all.

Longing for IBS relief

There’s something to be said for my “normal” IBS-D flares: they usually end within a few hours. There’s only so much my body can reject. Once it’s empty, I might still feel funny, but at least I can usually get some rest.

With bloating, that’s not the case. I know from experience that I can be bloated for a very long time until my body has finally digested the food that causes the issue. And when bloating becomes so painful that I can’t think about anything else anymore, I find myself longing for my familiar flares. In my head, being able to go to the bathroom should surely help with the pain. But it never does.

Bloating affects sleep

This flare that started after dinner was still going strong at midnight. Being kept up by IBS is terrible, especially when there is no end in sight. At this point, I was just lying on the couch, not wanting to disturb my partner with my constant tossing and turning. Thankfully, I do work from home and knew that I would be able to catch up on sleep in the morning.

At 1 am, the relentless pain was still there, although my stomach wasn’t as huge anymore and I could feel the bloating subsiding. Then, finally, it was mostly gone by 2 am.

The aftermath of bloating

One could think that such terrible painful bloating would result in an IBS-D flare later on. But it didn’t. All I got was a terrible headache. Other than that, I woke up feeling fine the next day.

I’ve never experienced a flare with just bloating and pain before, and I must say that I’m not keen on repeating that. Maybe I shouldn’t even call it a flare. But that’s what it felt like, keeping me up for half of the night.

Now, what’s the moral of this story? Maybe IBS is unpredictable and comes up with new ways to torture us all the time. Maybe it’s a reminder that there is no such thing as a completely safe food. I truly don’t know.

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