Stop Obsessing Over Triggers
Last updated: October 2021
Do you ever feel cheated, deceived, betrayed when your IBS flares up after a perfectly safe meal? I know I do. Whenever this happens, I start questioning basically everything I ever did in my life. Maybe the medication I take for my headaches contributes to my flares? Could it be that the chocolate I ate three days ago caused the flare I just had?
Trying to explain every flare
Not long ago, I suddenly got a horrible flare after eating my favorite safe food (sushi). Naturally, my mind went straight into analytic mode. Maybe the food wasn’t fresh? We had ordered it an hour ago, which is a long time for raw fish to be outside. Maybe the delivery person didn’t transport it properly. Maybe it went bad because it was sitting next to hot miso soup.
Then, my partner said something interesting: "Sometimes, there just isn’t a reason."
Naturally, I got very defensive at first. Of course, there’s a reason. I must have eaten a trigger food. The sushi must have gone bad on the way here. I had been very stressed the fast few days, maybe that’s what triggered it.
Accepting the unpredictability of IBS
But deep down, I knew that what he said was true. As much as I want to believe that my IBS can be somewhat controlled, this just isn’t always the case. I didn’t eat any of my usual trigger foods, and I still suffered a terrible flare. I wasn’t particularly stressed or anxious, and it happened anyway.
As someone who loves to be in control of my life as much as possible, accepting the unpredictable nature of IBS is very hard. It’s difficult for me to know that I could do everything right and still get IBS symptoms. At times, this stresses me out so much that I just want to give up food altogether.
However, never eating again is not really an option. And so, I’m constantly working on my mindset around IBS. Trying to wrap my head around the fact that it can’t be controlled, only managed. That no matter what I do, I’m never going to be 100 percent sure that I’ll have a flare-up-free day.
Treating IBS flares like any other illness
In my attempt to manage IBS as much as possible, I started blaming my bad choices whenever a flare hit. I found myself thinking that any particular flare could have been avoided if I only did this, if I only did that. However, this mindset just doesn’t work when it comes to a chronic illness.
At times, it will flare up, and there’s nothing I can do about it. It’s just like any other sickness: you can try to limit the risk of contagion by washing your hands frequently, but you’ll likely still catch some colds or stomach bugs. I don’t blame my bad choices when that happens, and I shouldn’t do it with IBS flares, either.
I can do everything to prevent unnecessary flares by adjusting my diet and lifestyle. But when it comes to seemingly random flares, I need to learn to let go and just wait until they pass. As of now, this is still a work in progress.
How do you deal with the unpredictable nature of IBS?
Which of the following symptoms of IBS do you experience most frequently?