Stop the Struggle: How to Relieve the Symptoms of IBS Attacks

Treatment Options to Relieve and Prevent Symptoms of IBS Attacks

If you have irritable bowel syndrome, you’ve likely experienced the symptoms of IBS attacks: stomach pain, bloating, extreme diarrhea or constipation. And that’s not all — fatigue [1 Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source, 2 Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source], depression and anxiety [3 Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source, 4 Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source, 5 Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source, 6 Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source], headaches [7 Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source, 8 Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source], and more can all be part of an IBS flare-up.

IBS is a common condition that can negatively affect one’s quality of life [9 Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source]. For many IBS patients, symptoms arrive in well-defined episodes, lasting, 2-5 days on average [10 Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source]. These episodes, or IBS attacks, interfere with work, family life, friends, and self-confidence.

The good news is there’s lots to be learned from recent IBS research, including strategies that can help you to reduce and even avoid symptoms of IBS attack. Read on to learn more about how to ease these symptoms and get your life back on track.

symptoms of IBS attack: Woman sitting on a couch while clutching her stomach in pain

What Are the Symptoms of IBS Attacks?

Abdominal pain and altered bowel movements are the defining symptoms of an IBS attack. However, there are many other common symptoms that you may also experience during an IBS attack, including:

IBS Affects More Than Just Your Digestive Tract

symptoms of IBS attack: Woman resting her head on her arms

What’s not often discussed is that IBS symptoms can affect more than just your digestive system. For example:

How to Relieve the Symptoms of IBS Attacks

No matter which symptoms you experience during an IBS flare-up, you want to find relief quickly. There are a number of things you can do to relieve symptoms of IBS attack.

Keep in mind that every IBS patient is different, and what works for you may not work for someone else. Experiment with these approaches to find the combination of treatment options that brings you the most relief:

Treatments to Calm a Gut Flare Up

Treatments to Calm a Gut Flare Up

IBS flare-ups start in the gut, so it makes sense to treat the root cause of the problem. These treatment options are highly recommended for bringing the gut back into balance:

Medication

Medication can be part of your plan for treating symptoms of IBS attack. However, most IBS medications simply provide symptom relief for digestive problems and do not address the cause of IBS flare-ups.

  • For IBS with diarrhea, Imodium (loperamide) is an over-the-counter medication that relaxes the smooth muscles of the digestive system and can help to improve stool consistency and reduce the frequency of bowel movements. Prescription antidiarrheal medications for IBS include Viberzi (eluxadoline) and Lotronex (alosetron).
  • For IBS with constipation, over-the-counter laxatives such as Glycolax, Miralax, or magnesium citrate can be very helpful. Fiber supplements may also be effective but can worsen symptoms for some. Choose low FODMAP sources of fiber such as ground flaxseeds or chia seeds.
  • For headaches and body pain associated with an IBS attack, over-the-counter NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as ibuprofen can provide relief. Long-term use of NSAIDs is not recommended due to side effects that can damage the gut, potentially worsening IBS symptoms.

Can IBS Attacks Be Prevented?

symptoms of IBS attack: Woman smiling while eating a salad

IBS is a set of symptoms rather than a disease. For decades, health care professionals did not know the cause of symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. However, research is now shedding light on the many factors that can lead to IBS [36 Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source]. These include:

All of this research gives us much more insight into managing IBS symptoms. If you suffer from frequent IBS attacks, there are steps you can take to prevent IBS flare-ups and improve your quality of life.

Long-Term Treatment of IBS

There are a number of treatment options for IBS that can help you to improve your overall digestive health. Treatments for IBS may differ from other gastrointestinal disorders, so a clear diagnosis is important.

Confirm Your Diagnosis

IBS shares symptoms with other digestive conditions, including celiac disease and inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

Traditionally, invasive procedures such as colonoscopy and biopsy have been used to rule out IBD and celiac disease in IBS patients. Thankfully, a simple IBS blood test can now identify many IBS patients and can be used to distinguish IBS-D (IBS with diarrhea) and IBS-M (IBS with mixed diarrhea and constipation) from these other conditions.

Treatment Options

Long-term treatment of IBS is a step-by-step approach that should start with the most fundamental approaches.

For some patients, an anti-inflammatory diet, probiotics, and lifestyle changes are all that’s needed to get control of IBS symptoms. For patients who don’t respond fully to these fundamental steps, more targeted approaches are available, including a low FODMAP diet and antimicrobial treatments. Research shows that herbal antimicrobial treatments are as effective as standard antibiotic treatment with Rifaximin [52].

My book, Healthy Gut, Healthy You, provides an in-depth guide to better gut health. If you want personal guidance for your IBS treatment plan, consider making an appointment with a health coach or functional medicine practitioner at our clinic.

Get a Handle on IBS

There is much you can do to relieve symptoms of IBS attack.

While medication can be helpful for specific symptoms of an IBS flare-up, modified fasting or dietary changes, probiotics, targeted supplements, and stress reduction are more effective for bringing the gut back into balance.

If you experience frequent IBS attacks, getting on a path to better gut health can help you to prevent flare-ups and improve your quality of life.

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