7 Ways to Deal with an IBS Flare-Up

Are you suffering from IBS? IBS can cause a wide range of symptoms including but limited to gas, bloating, indigestion, constipation and/or diarrhea. There are three forms of IBS – IBS-Constipation, IBS-Diarrhea and IBS-Mixed (vacillates between constipation and diarrhea). Symptoms and the cause differ between each individual. IBS can be caused by a wide variety of factors and in many cases testing will help to differentiate the root cause of the symptoms.


1)   Food allergy or Sensitivity: food allergies or sensitivities can cause an inflammatory cascade of events to occur in the digestive track. To find out if you have a food sensitivity you can either follow an elimination diet or consider food sensitivity testing, which can be explored by your Naturopathic Doctor (ND) or functional practitioner. Food allergy testing can be completed by your conventional MD.

2)   Dysbiosis: dysbiosis refers to an imbalance in your microbiome or gut bacteria. When you have been exposed to pharmaceuticals, environmental toxins, eat an inflammatory diet, or have food sensitivities, these can all cause an imbalance in your microbiome. To find out if you have dysbiosis talk with your ND or functional practitioner about a comprehensive GI Analysis. 

3)   SIBO/SIFO: Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth or Small Intestinal Fungal Overgrowth is a form of dysbiosis – heavy growth of a healthy bacteria in the wrong location, the small intestine. The best way to find out if you have SIBO/SIFO if with a Breath Test.

4)   Intestinal Permeability: all of the above can cause intestinal permeability, AKA leaky gut. While a healthy GI tract has some intestinal permeability, leaky gut is when we have increased permeability between the epithelial cells lining the GI tract. Testing can be done to find if you have increased intestinal permeability.

5)   Post-infectious: this can occur if you have had an infection. 

6)   Gallbladder function: having gallstones or a cholecystectomy can cause IBS as well. 


Now for the tips

1)   Water Fasting: a 24-hour water fast can be immediately helpful for IBS symptoms. If you decide to do this, it is ideal to schedule it on a day of rest. If you can’t schedule it on a day of rest make sure to schedule it on a day that is less intense or busy. You will want to make sure to drink plenty of water – at least 8 ounces. You can drink herbal tea as well, such as chamomile, ginger or turmeric. If you would like some gentle movement, stretches or gentle walks are fine.  

2)   Bone Broth: you can either incorporate bone broth into your diet or if you would like a more gentle form of fasting you can do a “bone broth fast”. This is something I incorporate in my practice quite frequently, especially with a range of autoimmune and digestive disorders. Replace your meals with organic chicken bone broth or grass-fed beef bone broth. Bone broth is available in many different forms – powder, frozen or fresh. Here are some options:

3)   Fermented Foods: fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, kombucha, etc. will support a healthy microbiome and can help with most but not all IBS symptoms. If you have been diagnosed with SIBO (or suspect you have it) fermented foods can be aggravating. 

4)   Probiotics: probiotics will help to support a healthy microbiome, however, not all probiotics are equal. There are so many probiotics on the market these days, it is strongly advised that you purchase high quality probiotics. There is a wide range of potencies and strains. Talk with your ND or Functional practitioner about which probiotics are best for you. If you have SIBO/SIFO you will want to avoid probiotics unless otherwise advised by your practitioner.

5)   Turmeric: turmeric is anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-cancer and beyond. It is a wonderful herb that you can purchase raw or dried at the grocery store or as a supplement. For a delicious turmeric recipe see below.

6)   Testing: testing options can be overwhelming as there are such a wide array of companies and types of gastrointestinal tests. In the past I have used many different companies but now I most commonly use Genova’s GI Effects, CDSA 2.0 and SIBO Breath Test. 

7)   Think of another?