A frustrated man sits at a table as the sun & moon rise and set around him.

How Long Do Flare Ups Last?

Someone asked me the other day how long a flare-up can last. I gave her the standard answer of two to four days. This is what my doctor told me and this is what I’ve seen in most everything I’ve read about IBS. I provided the caveat that everyone experiences IBS differently and that one person’s flares may be more or less intense and may last shorter or longer periods. After providing this very safe answer, I started to think about my own experience. When you think of the FLARE UP you think of the times when your IBS symptoms go berserk and you can’t much leave the toilet OR you are in excruciating pain from constipation. Or both... And all the other stuff that goes with it. The bloating is worse, cramps worse, fatigue WORSE. I don’t know about you but it is very hard to gauge just how long this all lasts. Does it matter? It’s like counting days in Hell. I guess the main reason it matters is that it gives you something to work towards. Decreasing the intensity and duration of my IBS flare-ups has been a really good place for me to set my focus. Because of the ‘no cure’ aspect associated with IBS, managing the intensity and duration of symptoms gives me something real, something tangible to deal with.

How long can IBS flare-ups last?

As far as the duration. I keep a journal for almost every important aspect of my life. I have a mental health journal, physical health (non-IBS related), daily life journal and of course, an IBS journal. When going through the IBS reading (man, this is a tough illness) I realized that there were points where I wasn’t sure when one flare up stopped and when another started. It seemed a hell of a lot longer than four days. Much longer. I will say that the worst ones were in the beginning after my diagnosis and during times of extreme stress and unhappiness. I most certainly have had flare-ups that have lasted a day. At first the ‘long’ flare-ups greatly outnumbered the one-day affairs. As I played around with my diet and started exercising, I noticed a slight change. It didn’t hurt as much. It was minor but noticeable. Once I started figuring out how my IBS works (as much as any of us can) I started to make some progress towards decreasing the intensity and duration.

Maintain a lifestyle that helps with flare-ups

The trick is maintaining the lifestyle that can help with flare-ups. That is the most important thing. If the diet slips or I don’t feel like exercising for a month, well, back to hell. The other thing I think we have to realize is that sometimes there are just too many things out of our control (life situations, other illnesses, stress) that kind of take the power out of our hands. Someone said the other day that we are expected to fight the illness and not let it take control of our lives. This is true. But I don’t know of anything in this world where you have control all the time. IBS is one of the more perfect examples I can think of.

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