How The Pandemic Made My IBS Worse

I believe it’s safe to say that the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t easy on anyone. I wanted to reflect on the effect that it has had on my IBS.

The pandemic made my anxiety spiral

Many people felt anxious when this whole situation started. I know I did. I was pregnant in my third trimester, and I couldn’t tell you what scared me more: contracting the virus and risking harming my baby or giving birth alone, without the father being present.

Thankfully, I didn’t get sick while pregnant and the nurses at the hospital allowed my partner to assist during the birth of our son. He was even able to visit me once a day afterward.

But nonetheless, my anxiety levels were high at that time. Being a new mom is hard. Being a new mom with IBS is extra hard. Throw a pandemic into the mix, and you’re likely to be a mess for a month or two (or three).

At first, lockdown felt like a relief

With the arrival of our baby, the return of severe IBS flares that had gone missing during my pregnancy, and the difficulties I had with postpartum recovery, I wasn’t mad about the lockdown. At first, I was actually quite happy that no one was allowed to visit us. It was also a relief to not have to leave the house since I was in a lot of pain and my IBS was super unpredictable.

But soon, the situation started to weigh on me anyway.

I wanted my family to come and see the baby, but they live in a different country and the borders were closed. My partner’s family was able to come, but we felt somewhat uneasy about letting them hold the baby. And then, I got so used to staying home that going out became a bigger deal than it ever had been.

Leaving the house became increasingly difficult

Before this pandemic happened, I was already scared of leaving the house because of my IBS. But I was used to going out anyway so that it wasn’t a big deal most of the time.

With lockdown, all of that changed. I got used to staying inside my comfort zone. I didn’t have an opportunity to go places, and so forgot how to do that without getting sick.

After months of lockdown and travel restrictions, I suddenly realized that my anxiety had taken the upper hand. I was no longer capable of leaving the house without panicking about a possible IBS flare. Without inventing any possible reason to stay within a walking radius of our home.

Safe foods option became incredibly restricted

When it comes to safe foods, I’ve noticed long ago that my IBS is a creature of habit. When I eat something often, it becomes safe, even if it wasn’t in the first place. Before, my safe foods consisted of meals I ate often at home, in restaurants, and when we were with friends and family. For example, I never eat chips at home, but I was still able to consume some without getting a flare.

That changed drastically with the pandemic. Restaurants were no longer open during the lockdowns, and even in between lockdowns, I didn’t feel like going there. We no longer saw friends and family on a regular basis, so I didn’t eat snacks or drink sodas and such for months.

And suddenly, I noticed that my safe food options had become extremely restricted. I was able to eat what I was used to at home and nothing else. Chips caused flare-ups. Coke did, too. Going out became even more of a struggle.

Being careful with food became less important

At the same time, I also became less careful with the foods I consumed. Not that I ate trigger foods. But I would have things that caused bloating and other discomforts without causing an actual flare.

As a result, I don’t even know how to eat without getting bloated or uncomfortable anymore. I did before. But I also can’t deal with these symptoms when I’m around other people.

All of this makes me want to stay home and not go out more than ever now. Not because I don’t miss social interaction, but because anything other than being home with my closest family now feels out of my comfort zone. And whenever I try leaving that comfort zone, I get so anxious about my IBS flaring up.

Did the pandemic have similar effects on how you deal with IBS? Or is it just me?

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