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If you suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), pain is no stranger. Abdominal pain and discomfort are two of the key symptoms associated with IBS. Plus, it tends to come in waves and can significantly interfere with daily life. 

When severe discomfort occurs, you’ve likely wondered how to relieve IBS pain instantly. Though there isn’t a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution, a variety of strategies can be effective in providing relief. Each can be easily incorporated into daily life, allowing anyone who struggles with IBS to feel prepared when pain arises.

What Is IBS Pain?

IBS pain affects nearly 10-15% of the population and presents in a wide variety of ways. It varies from dull aches to sharp cramps, to an intense stabbing feeling in the lower abdomen. Some individuals may also experience bloating, gas and constipation or diarrhea in addition to abdominal discomfort. 

For many people with IBS, the pain is unpredictable and flare-ups can strike at any moment. With its unpredictable nature, those with IBS often struggle with anxiety about flare-ups as well as fatigue and irritability.

Three Ways To Relieve IBS Pain Instantly

While it’s a very common condition, it can still be a challenge to know how to relieve IBS pain and bloating. When severe pain interferes with your daily activities, try implementing one of these strategies.

Heat Application

Heat application is one way to soothe the discomfort associated with IBS. Applying heat to the site of your pain via a warm compress, heating pad or hot water bottle helps to relax the muscles by increasing blood flow to the area. Heat can even help to stimulate digestion and reduce bloating, offering further relief from other uncomfortable IBS symptoms.

Drinking Tea

Non-caffeinated teas can also have a notable impact on IBS pain. Some herbal teas, such as fennel and ginger, may help to reduce gas and bloating, both of which contribute to pain caused by IBS. Other herbal teas, including peppermint and chamomile, help to ease pain by relaxing the muscles of the digestive tract and reducing cramps. 

No matter the variety, drinking non-caffeinated teas also helps to maintain adequate hydration. Proper hydration can soften stools and regulate the frequency of bowel movements, helping to prevent constipation and the associated discomfort.

Physical Movement

For immediate IBS pain relief on the go, gentle physical movement may be the best bet. Light physical movement promotes digestion and alleviates muscle tension. 

Exercises like walking, yoga, or gentle stretching can be performed anywhere and without any equipment. These exercises help to move food through your body and relax the abdominal muscles by promoting blood flow to the area.   

What Are IBS Pain Triggers?

IBS pain triggers can vary widely from person to person. Two of the common culprits are food and stress. Identifying and managing your specific triggers can make a world of difference when it comes to reducing your IBS pain.

Common IBS Trigger Foods

The foods that are most likely to lead to IBS pain are referred to as trigger foods. Foods high in fermentable carbohydrates, also called FODMAPs, are widely known as common trigger foods for IBS pain. 

Examples of high FODMAP foods include onions, garlic, wheat, certain fruits and dairy products. Other common trigger foods are caffeine, alcohol, spicy foods, and artificial sweeteners. 

However, trigger foods do vary from person to person. To identify your specific triggers, keep a diary of your daily intake and the occurrence of your IBS symptoms and look for patterns between the two.

Stress as a Trigger 

Stress disrupts the function of the digestive system and can be a notable trigger for IBS pain. Therefore, to manage IBS symptoms, you should practice stress management. Consider trying strategies like mindfulness and meditation, regular physical activity, breathing exercises or seeking support through either loved ones or a therapist.

The Importance of a Healthy Lifestyle in Managing IBS Pain

Engaging in regular physical activity is an important component of IBS pain management. Regular exercise promotes digestive health by stimulating the muscles of the digestive tract to move food along more effectively and regulating bowel movements. Physical activity also reduces stress, a key trigger for IBS symptoms. 

It’s important to choose an activity you enjoy and one that is appropriate for your fitness level. Even low-impact exercises like yoga or walking can offer notable benefits.

Long-Term Strategies for IBS Pain Relief: The Role of Diet

Following a low-FODMAP diet is one long-term strategy for IBS pain relief. Low-FODMAP diets aim to minimize IBS symptoms by limiting the intake of high-FODMAP foods including onions, wheat, garlic, certain fruits and dairy products. High-FODMAP foods are poorly absorbed in the small intestine and can ferment in the colon, leading to uncomfortable symptoms like bloating, gas, abdominal pain and irregular bowel patterns. 

Participating in clinical trials may also be worth considering for comprehensive IBS pain management. Clinical trials provide a means of evaluating the safety and efficacy of new IBS treatment strategies, including medications and dietary interventions. They allow individuals to access cutting-edge treatments while contributing to the advancement of IBS treatment overall. However, before participating in a clinical trial, it is vital to vet it thoroughly. 

When To Seek Medical Help for Ibs Pain

While the strategies above can be incredibly effective in relieving IBS pain, there are instances in which seeking medical attention is necessary. Seek prompt medical attention if you or a loved one is experiencing pain that is not relieved by usual treatments or experiencing rectal bleeding, unintentional weight loss, severe dehydration, significant changes in bowel habits, signs of infection or new-onset symptoms especially if you are over the age of 50.

Medical professionals play an important role in day-to-day IBS management outside of providing immediate care to pressing complications. They can provide a diagnosis and also create individualized treatment plans, provide education and counseling and offer referrals to specialists as needs arise.

Wrapping It Up: Key Takeaways in Managing IBS Pain

Managing your IBS pain can significantly reduce the burden of IBS on your daily life. For immediate pain relief, consider using heat therapy, drinking an herbal tea or engaging in gentle physical movement. For long-term symptom management, it is important to manage stress, maintain a healthy lifestyle and identify and avoid trigger foods like high-FODMAP foods.

By implementing these strategies and seeking guidance from a medical professional, the days of debilitating IBS pain may soon be behind you. To get started, connect with the doctors specializing in lifestyle medicine at UCF Health.