An IBS flare up can be brought on by strong emotion or stress, eating the wrong, inflammatory food, travel or no obvious reason.
While preventing a flare may be tough, having a strategy in place to ease the symptoms and shorten the episode, will reduce the anxiety and discomfort of a flare.
Ironically, the fear of flaring can actually bring one on.
Here are some strategies to stop the reactivity and send your system in recovery mode.
With modifications this can work for both constipation or diarrhea flares, as well easing episodes of pain, bloating, and gas.
Getting your body into recovery mode
If you hurt your back or other body part, what do you do? You rest it. The same principle applies to your digestive system. It knows how to fix itself if given a proper rest. That means giving it a rest from digesting.
But how do you rest your digestive system without getting “hangry” and giving your body the nutrients and energy it needs?
Not many people can handle fasting on water. And I don’t recommend it unless you’ve done it many times before. Fasting on water can further stress the thyroid, adrenals and exacerbate hormonal imbalance.
There’s a way to get the carbs, protein and fat you need while also giving your digestive system a rest and freeing up energy for healing and repair.
It’s called the elemental diet.
The elemental diet
The elemental diet is used for treating people with severe cases of SIBO, colitis or Crohns. It’s been used in hospitals for years. It’s called an elemental diet because the carbs, protein and fats are predigested. That means they’re already broken down into the basic compounds the body uses after digesting is done.
Carbs are broken down into glucose after digestion and protein breaks down into amino acids. The elemental diet contains glucose, amino acids and fat, in the form of easily digested and absorbed MCT oil powder, derived from coconut oil.
The elemental diet comes in powdered form and is mixed with 6 to 8 ounces of water. Old elemental diet formulas used to taste bad and were hard to choke down. They were also filled with lots of processed ingredients, that were not clean or healthy. A few years ago, a new clean and tasty elemental formula came on the market and has been a game changer for those with IBS.
In severe cases of SIBO, the elemental diet is used solely for 2 to 3 weeks, particularly with highly food-reactive individuals. An elemental fasting program of this duration needs to be supervised by a health practitioner.
Another way to use the elemental formula is as a snack, meal replacement or as flare support. When you’re feeling too bad too eat but need the nutrition.
If you use the elemental diet for a day or to replace 1 or 2 meals with it, it will give your digestive system the rest it needs while giving your body the nutrition it requires. You won’t be hungry on elemental shakes. It’s a not a supplement, it’s food that’s also fortified with vitamins and minerals.
Each scoop is 150 calories and supposed to be sipped slowly. You don’t need a blender to mix it you can simply use a spoon. So it is also highly portable and lasts for two years.
If poor digestion is keeping you body from properly absorbing and assimilating nutrients, this is an alternative way to supplement nutrition.
Because the glucose is absorbed at the very top of the small intestine, it will feed you and give you energy instead feeding a microbial overgrowth in the small intestine. While the microbes starve you are nourished, instead of the other way around.
This is how the elemental diet starves a SIBO overgrowth while providing easy to absorb carbs to a reactive gut.
And because this formula is so clean, with no questionable ingredients, it’s the perfect flare-friendly support that won’t irritate the gut.
You can purchase a bag of elemental formula at my online dispensary.
You need to quickly create an account to get access to the dispensary.
Once you are in you’ll see this screen. Go to the drop down menu and select IBS/SIBO flare support category. Once you click on it you’ll see the elemental formula there. Below, I’ve listed a two recipes for how to use this formula to address constipation and/or diarrhea.
Loose stool shake
Blend one scoop of elemental formula with 6 ounces of water and half a banana.
You can break open a probiotic capsule and add it before you blend. My favorite probiotic for IBS and SIBO is Megasporbiotic because it doesn’t contain the common lactobacillus strains that can increase SIBO overgrowth. If you don’t have SIBO, your favorite probiotic will do.
This can be the only thing you consume for a day or you can also have some bone broth with collagen (avoid chicken broth, use beef, lamb or pork broth instead). And a little bit of solid food if you’re hungry like boiled chicken and white rice cooked in broth for a long time. It’s also fine to substitute one or two meals a day with an elemental shake.
This works better than a laxative and is gentler on your body.
Laxatives can damage the bacterial balance and lining of your large intestine, and create dependence as your bowels get lazy.
Calm is one of my favorite magnesium citrate products because not only does it naturally encourage bowel movements, it relaxes your body and mind, which helps with stress induced constipation.
Simply blend a tablespoon of orange flavored calm with a scoop of elemental diet, 6 ounce of water and a whole banana. You can add ice cubes to give it more texture.
You can consume this a few times a day, with the addition of bone broth and easy to digest foods that are cooked for a long time and pureed with a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar.
Broth with gelatin and coconut oil
Homemade bone broth is another ancient remedy for digestive troubles and strengthening the immune system. It’s made by cooking 2 pounds of bones in 6 to 8 quarts of water with 2 tablespoons of vinegar in a slowcooker/crock pot for 24 hours or pressure cooker for 2 hours. Pork, beef or lamb bones are best as chicken bones are higher in FODMAPs.
Broth is soothing to the gut, nervous system and stomach lining and provides easy to digest forms of minerals, calcium and protein. The collagen, glycine and proline found in bone broth repairs intestinal lining and boosts the immune system. Consuming nutrients in liquid form helps with assimilation.
When digestion is weak and stomach acid is low, food is not properly broken down and the nutrients are poorly assimilated. So even if you eat a nutrient dense diet, weak digestion may prevent you from benefiting from those healing nutrients.
I like to add a few tablespoon of collagen to my broth to boost it’s healing effects, a teaspoon of coconut oil (if you tolerate it) and a sprinkle of tumeric to calm inflammation. I really like this brand of collagen because it’s grass fed and a great price.
The best way to consume solid food
Pureed soups, smoothies, and stews are the best way to consume food during a flare. The cooking process begins to break down proteins and fibers in your food which “predigests” them. I used this hand blender to puree all my soups.
Slow cooking is great at breaking down food and making it easier to digest. So is blending and pureeing. Taking a spoonful of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar or chewing on some fresh ginger can help stimulate stomach acid to further assist in digestion. Cooking your food in broth will also boost the healing effects.
It is best to avoid raw veggies or salad during a flare as they are the hardest for your digestive system to break down due to the raw fibers. If you crave greens, it’s best to lightly saute them with olive, coconut or avocado oil. Or blend them in a smoothie.
Favoring lower carb or lower FODMAP fruits and veggies and avoiding all grains, except for well-cooked white rice, can also help speed the duration of a flare. Avoid white rice if your issue is constipation.
Listen to your body and eat only when hungry. If you need nutrition or energy, try an elemental shake or cup of bone broth instead of food. Alternate the two until you feel better.
Simple nutrition and calming your body and mind with relaxing activities is the best formula for reducing the severity and duration of a flare.
Once you develop confidence in your ability to deal with flares, you may find they come less often.
Angela Privin is proof that IBS is NOT an incurable disease or a disease at all. IBS is a body out of balance. It’s an invitation for change. After solving her own IBS mystery more than a decade ago Angela trained as a health coach to help others.
Angela uses both science and intuition to help people figure out what’s out of balance in their body. She works with lab tests, dietary changes, supplementation and nervous system rebalancing. Get help rebalancing your digestive system and solving your IBS mystery here.