I really wanted to write a post about the steps to take when you think you have IBS. How you can gain clarity and manage IBS symptoms once the illness strikes.
IBS can occur all of a sudden. It did for me. I went from a somewhat normally functioning human being to a total mess in about three weeks, and there was no going back.
But the reason why I struggled so much, even before I was diagnosed with IBS, is because I just didn’t know what to do. Since that time, I’ve found great resources on dealing with IBS and have gotten many more insights into the illness that help me cope with IBS on an everyday basis, and I know that these would have helped me massively in the very beginning.
So this is what this post is going to be about. I’m going to share with you the first 6 steps to take when you think you have IBS.
Go see a doctor about your IBS and get tests done
I know that this is the least exciting tip I could possibly give you. And yet, it’s crucial to get tests done when you start having serious digestive issues. You might be diagnosed with IBS (in which case you can follow my next steps), but it might also be something different.
First of all, you might have some sort of infection that requires medication, in which case it is crucial that you get it. Or you might have another condition that needs to be treated entirely differently.
Seeing a doctor and getting all the tests done really is really important. Only once all “serious” causes are excluded can you (and your doctor) talk about IBS.
Research the Low FODMAP diet for IBS and start it
Finding out what foods trigger your IBS is the first step you should take once you know for sure that you have IBS. I’m not saying this because everyone says it, but because it really changed my life.
Nothing is worse than running into IBS flare-ups with your eyes closed. Life is much easier when you know what you can expect from your gut, at least to some extent.
So I really recommend researching the Low FODMAP diet for IBS right away and starting on it. Just like that. Don’t wait for the weekend, don’t “wait and see”. It really is worth it!
If you want an overview of common trigger foods for IBS (based on my personal experience), you can also read my post about eating with IBS.
Give yourself a lot of time before leaving your house
I have talked about the importance of having an IBS routine before. But here’s the thing: a lot of people seem to have the worst IBS flare-ups in the morning. A lot of IBS sufferers need plenty of time before being able to leave the house.
So even if you don’t know your IBS that well yet, try giving yourself 2 to 3 hours in the morning before leaving the house. It might just save you from annoying IBS flare-ups at work!
Also, try to get a lot of sleep because lack of sleep can worsen your IBS symptoms.
Talk to people close to you about your IBS
When you have IBS, it’s easy to feel isolated. The condition can be embarrassing, and it’s not easy to be around people when you’re anxious about getting a flare-up.
That’s why it’s so crucial to talk to people close to you about what you’re going through. Take the time to explain it to them, even if you think you don’t want to.
Being surrounded by people who know about you IBS has many advantages:
- They won’t get mad at you when you don’t want to go to a restaurant.
- They won’t ask all the time why you’re not eating something.
- You won’t have to explain anything when you get a flare-up around them.
- They can calm you down when you’re getting anxious.
- They can help you deal with your flare-ups so you don’t feel alone.
- These people will keep you from feeling isolated.
- They’ll make great travel companions (because you can travel with IBS!)
Find ways to stay calm about getting IBS flare-ups
The best way to stay calm and reduce anxiety will depend on every single person. But it’s important to find what works for you because anxiety is a major IBS trigger!
Here are a couple of things that work for me:
- Listening to a calming playlist (preferably the same playlist every day)
- Doing yoga in the morning so I don’t go into the day super stressed
- Every time I start thinking about what might happen if I have a flare-up, I remind myself that there’s no use to think about that. It’s the same thing as thinking about a car crash every time you get into the car: it won’t make you safer, but it will ruin your journey.
- Always being prepared for a flare-up. I always have medication on me, and try to plan access to toilets in advance so I don’t have to stress about it.
- Closing my eyes and blocking out the world, so I can concentrate and reassure myself that everything will be just fine.
Tell yourself that IBS will not control your life
When I first got IBS, I felt like I would never be able to lead a normal life again. I felt like I wasn’t able to do even the simplest things, like going to work or going out with my friends.
Yet even though IBS is not an easy condition to live with, it’s important to tell yourself that you can still have a normal life.
Certain things will be harder, for sure. But you’ll figure it out along the way. And the things that you can’t do anymore, like for me eating pizza, are pretty unimportant.
I’m not trying to say that IBS isn’t difficult. I just mean that there’s no use in thinking that your life is doomed. Everything can be possible even with IBS, and if you truly want something, then IBS is not going to stop you.
I really hope that these 6 steps to take when you think you have IBS have helped you! Please reach out to me if you have any questions or if you would just like someone to talk to.