How The Pandemic Made My IBS Worse
Last updated: June 2021
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?
Which of the following symptoms of IBS do you experience most frequently?