How to Manage an IBS Flare-up

How to Manage an IBS Flare-up

Living with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is like being a detective in your own health mystery. When it’s calm, everything seems fine. You might even forget it’s there until your belly tightens like a vise, your bowels go rogue, and you suddenly need instant relief — and a bathroom.

Naturopathic physicians Dr. Jake Schmutz and Dr. Joshua Hersh at Integrative Medica in Salt Lake City, Utah, diagnose and treat all types of IBS. We can help you discover the culprits behind your IBS flare-ups and attack the attacks before they wreck your day. 

Step 1: Determine the causes of your IBS flare-ups

Prevention and treatment start with figuring out your triggers. The most common are:

Stress and emotional turmoil

A tough day at work, an awkward social encounter, or performance anxiety can send your gut into overdrive.


Certain foods seem to act like ticking time bombs for IBS sufferers, from a greasy burger to a generous helping of veggies.


Most women are no strangers to premenstrual syndrome (PMS), but your monthly cycle affects your digestive system too. 

Step 2: Learn how to battle flare-ups

When an IBS attack hits you, fight back with these strategies: 

Start with your diet

Do reach for hot cups of IBS-friendly teas (green, white, black, and peppermint) and sip on clear liquids — hydration is your friend.

Don’t indulge in red meat, fried foods, and high-fat delicacies during the flare-up.

Address stress 

Managing the chaos in your gut starts with managing the chaos in your life. Contend with stress through breathing exercises, meditation, and regular exercise. Physical movement triggers the release of endorphins, your body’s “feel good” hormones. 

Step 3: Strategize for long-term IBS control

Knowing how to handle IBS flare-ups on the spot is handy, but knowing how to avoid them is even better. Here are some savvy strategies we offer for keeping your flare-ups at bay.

Botanical medicine

Botanical medicine, or herbal therapy, involves using plants or plant extracts to treat various health conditions, including IBS. 

Peppermint oil, for instance, is known for its antispasmodic properties, helping to relax the digestive tract muscles, which can alleviate cramping and bloating. 

Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, has anti-inflammatory properties that may help reduce IBS-associated inflammation. 

Vitamins and supplements

Vitamins and supplements ease IBS by addressing nutritional deficiencies and supporting gut health. For example, probiotics are supplements containing beneficial bacteria that restore the natural balance of your gut flora, which IBS often disrupts. 

Fiber supplements can also help, especially for those with constipation-predominant IBS, by improving bowel movement regularity. However, it’s essential to introduce fiber gradually to avoid exacerbating symptoms like gas and bloating.

Replenishing stomach acid 

Some people with IBS experience low stomach acid levels, hindering digestion and absorption of nutrients. That leads to bloating, gas, and irregular bowel movements. 

In these cases, we replenish stomach acid through betaine HCl supplements to improve digestive efficiency and alleviate these symptoms.

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