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A defeated and worried woman sits at a table with her chin in her hand. On the table is a crystal ball, scattered tarot cards, and spilled bottles of probiotics. Behind her on the wall is a start chart.

Trying to Predict the Unpredictable: IBS-C and IBS-D

Learning how to predict flares has been the hardest part of managing the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. It can often be a guessing game, but sometimes there are warning signs. It is different for everyone. Pay attention to your patterns and listen to your body. It might help prevent disasters and ease some of your worries.

Paying attention to foods that trigger IBS-D was the easiest part of learning to predict a flare. Certain foods initiate an immediate response that can spell disaster. Raw vegetables and fried food are two of my worst offenders. Eating a hamburger or a salad often results in sudden pain. This happens in a relatively short amount of time and gives little warning before I have an urgent need to go. I know if I have things to do and places to go I must avoid these foods. Since I have bouts of both IBS-D and IBS-C, taking anything to relieve these symptoms might result in a drastic swing in the other direction. It is a gamble, and I often just let it run its course rather than risk bringing everything to a halt. Diet restrictions help, but that is as much as I am willing to do to get relief.

Predicting IBS-C is not easy

It is much harder to predict when a bout of IBS-C will occur. There does not seem to be any rhyme or reason to these bouts. Foods do not seem to trigger it. These symptoms just suddenly appear out of nowhere with no warning. Since I now have mobility issues, this seems to be a bigger problem. The upside to these bouts is I can eat pretty much whatever I want with little consequence. Nothing seems to make it worse, and nothing seems to make it better. It just is what it is until it decides to change on its own.

I recently had an awful encounter with IBS-C and decided to try a probiotic and mild stool softener. The results were disastrous and terribly embarrassing. The worst part was it only provided temporary relief. After the unexpected colon cleansing, I was still stuck in one of the worst bouts of IBS-C I have experienced in more than two decades of dealing with irritable bowel syndrome. I am still learning things the hard way, it seems. I now know a stool softener will not trigger a lasting episode of IBS-D. It will not cure an episode of IBS-C, either. Regardless of how I learn, I am indeed learning and it helps me figure out how to better predict a flare and manage my symptoms as best as I can.

Signs of IBS-D are easier to spot

Learning to recognize signs of a swing from IBS-C to IBS-D was relatively easy for me. The first hint of a burning sensation in my lower abdomen means I need to be more careful with my foods or risk triggering a full-blown IBS-D episode. The first bout of diarrhea means I need to start paying very close attention to what I eat. Sometimes I can stave off a major episode by eliminating trigger foods as soon as I have the first sign of an IBS-D flare. If I catch it in time and act right away, I might be able to enjoy a short time with little or no symptoms. It does not last long, but it is a very welcome vacation from the horrors of irritable bowel syndrome. That is why I pay close attention and try to predict flares. If I am lucky, I get a vacation.

While I might not have symptoms during that brief period, I must monitor what I eat. I watch for signs to try to predict which flare will happen next. It is often a coin toss, but I have noticed a few things can send it in the direction of IBS-D. Stress is a trigger. If I am overly stressed, an IBS-D flare will soon follow. If I catch a cold or the flu, IBS-D is right around the corner.

I may not be able to control irritable bowel syndrome, but I am doing all I can to keep it from controlling me. Learning to predict the unpredictable might help you better manage your symptoms and let you get out and live a little.

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