Can you suddenly get IBS?

Nutritional Practitioner, BA (Hons), DN, DNT (Distinction)
Ask Ali

12 June 2020

Why have I suddenly got IBS symptoms?

First of all, your IBS symptoms might not be so sudden. Most people don’t pay attention to their bowel movements on a daily basis. It’s only when things start to go drastically wrong that you might begin to pay attention to your digestive habits and notice that something isn’t quite right. There could actually be a long lead up to your major IBS issues, but perhaps you aren’t aware of how often you are a little constipated or experience some looseness, so you get a shock when these things start to happen more regularly.

There are, however, certain instances where symptoms can be suddenly triggered by your lifestyle and diet, such as:

  1. Lifestyle changes
  2. Important events
  3. Drastic detoxing
  4. Unfamilliar foods.

Read on to find out how these factors affect IBS and what can be done to ease symptoms.

1. Lifestyle changes

If you make or experience a sudden change in your life, this can have an effect on your digestive system. For instance, starting a new job can be a very stressful time as you adapt to new surroundings, meet new people and take on new responsibilities. This can all have an effect on your gut, causing nervous irritation that makes you run to the loo. It can also have the reverse effect as ongoing stress causes your digestive system to effectively ‘switch off’, as your blood supply is sent to your heart and brain to power you through the challenging times.

If you try to eat when your body is focussing its efforts elsewhere, this can be a shock to your digestive system and cause issues, as your gut is not prepared for an onslaught of food and has not produced the essential enzymes or mechanisms required for proper digestion. Poorly digested food will ferment and cause gas if it is not shifted, causing you bloating and discomfort.

What can help?

  • Stress Relief Daytime. This is a fast-acting remedy to relieve stress, which can help you to relax so that you can enjoy a meal and give your body a chance to handle your food properly.
  • Digestisan. This contains herbs which are useful for indigestion symptoms caused by stress or eating too quickly. Its extracts of dandelion and artichoke help to relieve flatulence and abdominal discomfort created by wind. 

2. Important events

Short-term anxiety or nerves can trigger IBS symptoms in the same way that stress can, so your sudden flare-up of symptoms might be related to an upcoming event such as an important exam or a work party. If this is the case, a vicious cycle can develop if your anxiety is caused by worrying over a bout of diarrhoea, but your diarrhoea is actually caused by your anxiety!

I would recommend avoiding caffeine and big meals before these big events so you don’t have to worry about uncomfortable or embarrassing symptoms presenting themselves at the wrong time. Taking medication to stop your bowel moving will only cause further problems for your digestive system, so this is not the way to go!

What can help?

  • Silicol gel. If your nerves are causing diarrhoea, this will calm and soothe the lining of your gut and relieve inflammation, thus alleviating diarrhoea – without causing constipation!
  • Biotta Breuss juice. This will help to replenish nutrients lost through a bout of diarrhoea. It can even be heated to make a delicious and nutritious soup, which will be gentle on your stomach if you’re feeling queasy and will allow you to replenish some nutrients in time for your big exam.

My Top Tip:

Silicol gel can help ease symptoms of IBS such as nausea, abdominal pain, bowel discomfort, diarrhoea and flatulence. 

It may also help for other digestive disorders such as heartburn and acid reflux.

"This is an amazing product, has really helped my ibs symptoms, highly recommend."

Read more customer reviews

3. Drastic detoxing

A significant change in diet can also have a huge impact on your body and can result in a sudden flare-up of IBS symptoms. For example, if you decide to undergo a drastic detox in January and subject your gut to a bout of cold, acidic fruit smoothies then this is bound to give your system a shock. This could be to blame for your stomach pains and discomfort.

Fresh fruit is a far more natural option and requires chewing, unlike a liquid diet. Chewing is essential for activating the production of digestive enzymes and priming your stomach to receive food! Read this blog from our nutritionist, Emma, on how detoxes can have a negative effect on your body.

What can help?

  • A balanced diet. The key to a healthy diet is balance, and for many people a flood of cold, raw food is going to have a negative effect on digestion. Extreme measures are never a good option! Cutting out a few junk foods and reducing caffeine intake is a safer option for unburdening your digestive system.

4. Unfamiliar foods

Even small changes to your diet can impact your digestion and might be the reason behind your sudden IBS symptoms. Suddenly switching from warm foods to lots of cold foods, for example, can be a shock to your system. If you go on holiday to somewhere hot and snack on ice cold food and drinks all day when your body is used to a colder climate and warmer foods, this could cause some issues. Or suddenly eating spicy food when your stomach isn’t used to it can irritate your gut and trigger stomach pain or diarrhoea.

If you’re planning to switch up your diet, for example including more brown bread and pasta instead of white, this extra roughage may make itself felt if you’re not used to it. This can be the same for new vegans or vegetarians introducing more plant-based foods to their diet than they’re used to. So, before beginning a brand new diet, it’s important to get your bowel moving and make sure you begin on a clean slate, as it were. As mentioned, your digestive system can become overwhelmed with unfamiliar foods, so it’s important to make sure you keep things moving or else you could be left with a difficult and uncomfortable concoction bubbling away inside you. 

What can help?

  • Warm foods. They’re easier for your body to digest because you don’t have to use excess energy to heat the food (poo comes out warm, doesn’t it?!). Stick with warm foods (like stewed fruit) to prevent overwhelming your gut.
  • Avoid spicy foods. Or, if you simply can’t live without them, try a little bit at a time to test how your body reacts and see if that’s what is responsible for your flare-ups.
  • Silicol gel. It coats the lining of your gut and acts as a trap for toxins and other irritants. If certain foods don’t agree with your digestive system and tend to irritate your gut then Silicol gel will help to heal and prevent this irritation. 

Red flags

Make sure you know when it’s time to visit your doctor. There are some red flags to look out for when it comes to a sudden influx of symptoms associated with IBS. Talk to your doctor if:

  • You have recently been on holiday and you experience a sudden flare-up of symptoms such as diarrhoea and vomiting. These could be caused by a bug and should not go un-checked by your doctor.
  • You have experienced a significant emotional shock, such as bereavement. In extreme cases, this can trigger more serious conditions such as Chron’s disease or ulcerative colitis. This should be checked by a doctor and you shouldn’t assume that it is simply IBS.

For more red flags to look out for, check out our blog on changes you shouldn't ignore if you have IBS.


Originally written 8 January 2019 (updated 12 June 2020).

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