My Top Five Triggers of a Flare-Up

Each of us who have the diagnosis of IBS have our own unique mix of symptoms and our own triggers. Figuring out what triggers a flare up can be tricky, because sometimes what triggers your IBS once may not trigger it again. For example, eating a particular food may be fine…until it isn’t. It’s a bit of a moving target, but discovering what triggers IBS to flare in you is an important step to managing the condition because once you identify those triggers, you can avoid them. Or, try to! I’ve realized my top five triggers include some things I can control and other things I have no control over.

5: Hormonal changes

Fluctuations in hormones, such as those that occur before menstruation, can cause IBS to flare for many women, me included. Many women also notice IBS symptoms increase during hormonal fluctuations in pregnancy and perimenopause.

4: Colonoscopy

I’ve written before that my worst flare up of IBS was after my colonoscopy. I had to have a colonoscopy to rule out other conditions, and it confirmed my diagnosis of IBS. But the flare of IBS after the procedure was so painful and long – about six weeks of misery – I’m not looking forward to having another one.

3: Food sensitivities

As many with IBS, I’ve done an elimination diet to figure out which foods are big triggers for me. I have a sensitivity to gluten and dairy. After figuring this out about four years ago, I’ve eliminated those from my diet. Not eating gluten and dairy has definitely helped (but hasn’t cured) my IBS symptoms.

2: Stress

Whether physical or emotional, stress can absolutely cause IBS to flare. Physical stressors for me include travel, engaging in too much rigorous exercise, or being sick with a cold. Emotional stressors can occur more frequently and can range from being in a disagreement with a loved one to being under stress from work. No matter what the stressor, my digestion woes are a sign that I need to ramp up the self-care and find ways to manage my stress response.

1: Too much of anything

Having lived with IBS for about twenty years, I’ve figured out most of my triggers. But one of the sneakiest triggers is that too much of nearly anything can cause IBS to flare. I think – at least for me – that this is one of the reasons why some foods are okay until they’re not. I can eat a reasonable portion of a food and be fine, but if I eat too much or even eat the same thing multiple times in a week, my digestive system protests with an increase in IBS symptoms like bloating, diarrhea, cramps, and gas.

Avoid what you can, manage the rest

Once you know what triggers your IBS, you can take steps to avoid those things. Or, you can at least be prepared for a possible flare-up if you are exposed to those triggers again. For all the things you can’t control, it can be helpful to have a list of remedies to turn to that can soothe your body and ease those symptoms.

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