A woman wearing an apron is looking at a recipe book and has a cutting board on the counter and some vegetables while she rolls two dice with flame and smiley face sides

IBS Flares Are Not Always Predictable

Last updated: September 2022

What is that saying? "Make plans, and the universe will laugh at you?" Well, today, I learned that when I try to predict my IBS food flares, they will inevitably change. I've had IBS for 4 years, and I came into this diagnosis with the understanding that knowledge was power. I can safely say that it is, except for when I try to use that knowledge to control my diagnosis.

In the past, I have always tried to note what foods trigger my IBS and work to avoid those. I refuse to avoid some, like onions and garlic, because I love cooking with them. Others, like bell peppers or tomatoes, can occasionally cause issues. And then there are ingredients that I am afraid to try, like tofu, because I don’t know how I'd react. I had knowledge of what bothered me, but that knowledge didn’t always seem to help. I had to approach a new recipe with the thought that the ingredients might make me have an IBS flare at school or work and I had to weigh whether I was okay with that – usually, I didn't want to risk it.

IBS issues with eating a new recipe

I want to continue with my daily schedule while planning to eat a lunch made at home and be sure that the ingredients I choose for the day won’t cause any issues. I only cook with garlic and onions when I am home and have no plans to go anywhere since I can predict what will happen. However, there are multitudes of ingredients that I do not have a handle on yet. So instead, I am met with uncertainty every time I cook.

For instance, I wanted to try out a new recipe that I found on TikTok, but I had to wait until spring break arrived, just in case something went wrong. The recipe was from a creator called BakedByMelissa, and it was her Green Goddess salad. As I was cooking, I realized that I didn’t know how my body would react to the waxy outside of the cucumbers or the large assortment of raw vegetables in my bowl. Luckily everything was fine, and the recipe was fantastic (for someone who doesn’t like salads, this was amazing). But I still can’t enter a new recipe without some sense of nervousness.

I used to love cooking and trying new recipes, but lately, I seem to be avoiding trying anything new. If I do try something new, I usually stick to Asian recipes since they tend to have ingredients that I know work for me. But sometimes I want to try different cuisines that happen to use new ingredients.

Can I do anything to fix unpredictable IBS?

Yes, I think there is a way to at least reduce my anxiety regarding new recipes. Usually, I try to plan my meals on a calendar or on a sticky note of some sort. Adding stickers to the meals on my calendar can give me a good idea of what made my stomach happy and what didn’t, without focusing too much on individual ingredients or the results.

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