What Causes IBS Flare-Ups & How To Prevent This

Have you felt the tell-tale rumbles of an upset stomach? While this can be common, several digestive disorders cause these flare ups more often than the common stomach ache. 

The digestive system consists of nearly 30 feet of hollow tissue that help break down and absorb the nutrients from your food. Your digestive tract is the highway that provides your body with essential nutrients, and it’s crucial that it operates smoothly to keep your body in optimal condition.

Conditions that can disrupt the gastrointestinal (GI) tract’s functioning and cause discomfort are a reality for many of us. From ulcerative colitis and celiac disease to Crohn’s disease, Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), these conditions can significantly affect our daily lives.

IBS, in particular, is a unique chronic disorder that affects the functionality of the digestive tract, with symptoms not tied to inflammation like other GI problems. Below, we’ll take a closer look at IBS, its symptoms, causes, and ways you can manage it to avoid flare-ups. 

What Is IBS?

Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a condition that affects your lower GI tract. It is estimated to affect 10 to 15 percent of the adult population of the United States, with a majority of cases being women. The condition is characterized by many symptoms, including excessive gas, bloating, abdominal cramping, abdominal pain and changes in bowel habits. 

The wide range of IBS symptoms can be confusing, which is why IBS is further broken down into three groups: IBS with constipation, IBS with diarrhea and IBS mixed. 

Let’s take a closer look at each type of IBS. 


IBS with constipation, also known as IBS-C, happens when digested material takes longer than it should through the colon. The colon is part of the digestive tract that is responsible for reabsorbing water from the digestive process. When it takes longer to travel through this portion of your digestive tract, it can lead to less frequent, harder stool that can be more difficult to pass when you have a bowel movement. 

Aside from constipation, individuals experiencing IBS-C can experience bloating, abdominal discomfort and excessive gas. 


IBS with diarrhea, also known as IBS-D, occurs when digested material moves faster than it should through the colon. Without much time in the colon, water is not reabsorbed into the body leading to loose and watery stool. This can lead to urgent and frequent bowel movements — not to mention dehydration. 

Those with IBS-D can also experience other symptoms associated with IBS, including abdominal discomfort and cramping but may also be at a higher risk for symptoms of dehydration as diarrhea can significantly increase the amount of water lost from the body. 


Mixed IBS, also known as IBS-M, is a little less straightforward than the other forms of IBS, as those with IBS-M alternate between periods of constipation and diarrhea. IBS-M is a less common form of IBS and can be much more difficult to manage symptoms when it strikes. 

What Causes IBS?

IBS is a chronic condition that impacts lots of people, but there isn’t enough information to figure out its exact cause. Even though a cause hasn’t been identified, several things have been linked to IBS. 

Here’s a closer look at some of these potential causes. 

Food Intolerance

Many people experience increased IBS symptoms when they eat a certain type of food, often due to food sensitivity or intolerance. Certain molecules like gluten and lactose can have a difficult time being broken down by the body, leading to certain GI symptoms consistent with IBS. 

Not all IBS is caused by an underlying intolerance like lactose intolerance, but many foods that contain these molecules are known IBS-trigger foods that many people opt to avoid. 

Other GI Problems

Another potential cause of IBS is having another GI condition like gastroenteritis or bacterial overgrowth. These conditions may contribute to what is known as post-infectious IBS (PI-IBS), where IBS develops after acute infection of the GI tract. 

The exact cause of PI-IBS is not entirely understood. Still, it may result from gut flora imbalance or alteration that leads to subsequent abdominal pain and changes to stool consistent with IBS symptoms. 

Short-Chain Carbohydrates

One proposed theory behind IBS for certain individuals is the consumption of too many fermentable carbohydrates. These short-chain carbohydrate molecules are typically found in artificial sweeteners and foods that contain fructose. 

These carbs aren’t easily digested by the body but can be easily fermented in the colon by the microbes living there. A byproduct of this fermentation is gas, which may contribute to abdominal pain and excessive gas. 


When people imagine potential causes of the symptoms of IBS, they probably don’t think about the role of mental health. In actuality, it may play a larger role in gut health than people realize. 

Research has found that chronic stress may have a role to play in the development of IBS-related symptoms and in triggering IBS attacks. 

Your psychological health is closely tied to several body systems, including hormonal regulation and immune response, which are thought to have a detrimental impact on your intestines and gastrointestinal health and function. 

How Can I Manage IBS?

As you can probably deduce, IBS is a complex condition that can be very different from person to person. There are several means that healthcare professionals like a gastroenterologist have at their disposal, but they are typically geared more toward alleviating symptoms than treating the underlying IBS. 

Some common treatment options include prescription antidepressants, anti-diarrheal drugs and laxatives. While these medications can help improve your overall quality of life by alleviating symptoms, true IBS management also requires you to make lifestyle and dietary changes to mitigate flare-ups effectively. 

Discover how to help support your digestion and alleviate IBS symptoms with the tips and strategies below.

Dietary Changes

One of the most effective means of managing IBS is making dietary changes to avoid foods that exacerbate your IBS symptoms. For some, this may include eliminating dairy; for others, it may mean eliminating foods containing highly fermentable carbs that lead to bloating. 

One popular diet for managing IBS symptoms is the low-FODMAP diet. FODMAP is an acronym for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols. Some known FODMAP foods include veggies high in sulfur, fruits with fructose, grains, legumes like lentils and dairy. 

Relieve Symptoms When They Strike

When IBS strikes, it can cause significant discomfort to the point that it takes away your ability to go about your day normally. Abdominal discomfort is a common side effect of IBS, and there are some things you can take to potentially provide some relief. 

IBS Relief + Formula from JSHealth is a dietary supplement that contains peppermint oil. Peppermint oil has a calming effect as it contains a molecule known as menthol, commonly used as a natural analgesic. This gel capsule contains pure peppermint oil to help fight back against abdominal discomfort and bloating. 

Take a Supplement To Support Digestion

Supporting your overall digestion and making it more robust is another method to help potentially reduce the frequency of IBS symptoms. From a nutritional standpoint, you can take a supplement containing nutrients that help support metabolism, like the Skin + Digestion Formula from JSHealth

Another way you can support a healthy digestive system is to facilitate a healthy gut microbiome. When the gut microbiome is out of balance, it could contribute to gastrointestinal issues. Taking a probiotic may be able to help repopulate your gut with beneficial bacteria. 

Probiotic + is a supplement containing many bacteria associated with a healthy gut microbiome. This includes many species of bifidobacterium and lactobacillus. 


In conclusion, IBS is a complicated condition that does not have a one-size-fits-all solution. If you suspect you have IBS, seek medical advice to get checked out and make sure there are no underlying reasons for your symptoms. 

A medical professional can provide you with treatments. Ultimately, managing IBS requires a multifaceted approach that includes medical intervention, dietary changes, and lifestyle modifications to help support your digestive tract. 

For all your dietary supplement needs JSHealth is here to help. We have several products geared toward supporting your digestive health and alleviating gastrointestinal upset, which may help in your journey to living a healthier lifestyle with potentially fewer flare-ups. 


Irritable Bowel Syndrome - American College of Gastroenterology

Extending our knowledge of fermentable, short-chain carbohydrates for managing gastrointestinal symptoms | NCBI

Post-infectious irritable bowel syndrome | NCBI

Impact of psychological stress on irritable bowel syndrome | NCBI