If you have been diagnosed with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) or Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), you may experience “flares” on occasion. During this time, your symptoms become intensified, which can be worrisome and frustrating. However, there are steps you can take to cope while your gut is in distress in order to overcome this obstacle.
1. Distraction is Key
When your stomach is throbbing and you’re in pain, it’s difficult to think of anything else, but that’s actually one of the best things you can do in this scenario! Watch your favorite TV shows, movies, and YouTube videos. Do crossword puzzles in the newspaper. Fill in coloring pages using colored pencils. It may seem silly, but having an outside activity to keep your mind off of the discomfort is beneficial.
2. Breathe Deeply, Breathe Gently
Have you ever noticed a shift in your breathing patterns when you’re in a flare? Your breaths are tight and constricted, just like your stomach. Despite your aches and pains, all of the millions of cells that make up your digestive tract still need plenty of oxygen. As a result, adopting a deep breathing pattern is best. Breathe in through your nose for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, and release for 4 seconds. Then, repeat when you’re ready.
3. Journal Your Experience
Keep a little booklet to document your symptoms, emotions, and thoughts during your flare. Not only is this cathartic, but it provides a personal log for you to refer back to in the event that you suffer from another flare in the future. It also serves as a written record to show your doctor at your next appointment, as it can be difficult to remember your exact symptomology when you are no longer in the moment.
4. Be a Yogi
When symptoms become exacerbated, so too can your anxiety. Doing simple, basic yoga stretches helps incorporate some movement into your day when exercise is not yet possible. By relieving the physical tension that builds in your body, you will also relax the nervous system. This will serve to alleviate both the tightness in your intestines and the emotional strain afflicting your mind.
5. Soft Is Scrumptious
Soups, stews, smoothies, scrambled eggs. When things get rough, soft is the way to go. Puree your favorite fruits to make applesauce or blend a mixture of yogurt and berries to make a smoothie. Throw boiled vegetables and chicken in a pot to make some chicken soup or steam and puree starchy vegetables to create mashed potatoes. You want to reduce your digestive burden as much as possible so the gut can heal itself. Remember, soft plus soothing equals scrumptious!
6. Write Affirmations
It’s understandable to focus on the negative when you are curled up in pain. You can’t modify the circumstances, but you can modify how your brain perceives these circumstances. We have control over our emotions and own the pen needed to write the script of our lives. Don’t let these debilitating diseases take away the pen that you hold. Instead of thinking, “I’m weak. This pain is inevitable,” say to yourself, “I’m stronger than I was yesterday. I may be in physical pain, but I am resilient.” By twisting the narrative in your favor, you will be victorious in the end.
Both IBD and IBS flares may evoke pessimistic feelings, but tools are available to prevent yourself from becoming drenched in a raincloud of doom and gloom. Although these disorders can’t be wished away, you possess the tools needed to cope when the next attack strikes. So fasten your tool belt and embark on your journey, ready and able to handle whatever life may throw at you.
If you or a loved one needs help with their IBS or IBD symptoms, make an appointment with one of our dietitians by clicking here or calling 301-474-2499.