We’ve all been there, despite the most well-laid plans. You accidentally order something that turns out to have tons of garlic in it. Or maybe that gelato is calling you, but it turns out you’ve been stressed recently and your gut is just not feeling like dealing with that lactose (not that I ever do that…) Or maybe your body is just feeling grumpy and your stomach starts hurting for no apparent reason (true story, that literally happened to me while I was drafting this post. Sympathy pains? Was I losing my mind? Who knows). Even if you don’t follow a FODMAP conscious diet or don’t have chronic gut issues, chances are sometime or another your stomach is going to have an off day.
I mostly focus on the preventative side of things over here, because prevention is way better than trying to fix pain! But it’s just not realistic to expect things to always go the way you plan, and I know from (lots of) experience that stomach pain can zap every ounce of energy from you, which is no fun.
Over the years I’ve discovered and developed strategies for dealing with flare-ups to minimize the pain and effects, no matter where I am. Below I’m sharing my top ways to deal with the pain when it happens!
1. Chill out
So here’s the thing: when your body is stressed, it invokes the “fight or flight” response. And one of the results of that response is that your body shuts down other less important processes… including the digestion process. I used to experience this when I traveled — I’d always be going-going-going, and never give myself a chance to rest. It would literally feel like my body was holding off on digesting things until I got back… which was great while I was traveling but so not worth the pain when I got home and allowed myself to relax.
This is why the number one thing you can do to stop pain is to signal to your body that it’s not in any danger, so it can chill out and resume digesting your food. If you can, lay down in bed or on the couch (places your body has learned are for relaxing). If that’s not possible — like you’re at work or something — even stopping what you’re doing and taking a few deep breaths can make a world of difference.
Usually I’ll let myself take a break from whatever I was doing (esp. if I’m at work) and read something fun or scroll through Instagram for a sec. I’ll also sometimes actually tell myself “It’s ok Maria” in my head — I know it sounds silly but really does help convince my body that I’m safe. Do whatever works for you to de-stress (and if you don’t know, this is good sign that you should spend some time figuring that out)!
2. Peppermint or ginger tea
Both peppermint and ginger tea are great for digestion! Peppermint is actually a natural antispasmodic (remember daily) Plus drinking tea has the added benefit of being a relaxing thing to do (see #1). I don’t really notice a difference between one or the other – I’ll drink whatever I have on hand or feel like. But seriously, these really work and I’ll notice a difference within 30 minutes of drinking the tea.
On top of drinking a cup of tea, make sure you’re also drinking adequate water. (Also, this is a good tip in general — I know everybody and their mother tells you to drink more water but seriously it’s helped my symptoms SO MUCH). I know it’s tempting to think “I never want to put anything in my body ever again” and believe me, I’ve been there. But it’s so important to drink even a little water to help your body flush itself of whatever is causing distress.
3. Eat at normal times
This is huge, people. I know from experience that when my stomach is feeling lousy, I don’t get hungry at normal times and basically never want to eat again. But I’ve also discovered the hard way that, while there’s a pain from eating something that upset your gut, there’s also a pain from having an empty stomach. And if I don’t eat when I normally do, I’ll go from one to the other pretty quickly.
Obviously eat something low FODMAP, but I’ll even go so far as to eat what I think if as “safe boring” foods – bland, safe foods I know absolutely won’t upset me. Think gluten-free or sourdough bread, potatoes, lean protein like chicken and turkey (< so like a sandwich lol). Because FODMAPs are cumulative (ie, eating a small amount isn’t going to kill you but eating a small amount every meal for four days might), I’ll also eat “safe” foods for a day or two after the episode, depending on how I’m feeling.
Pay attention over time what you eat when you feel off and how it makes you feel. I’ve also learned that my body has different types of stomach pain, and I’ll eat something different depending on how I’m feeling (say, some fruit that’s more water heavy vs. a piece of bread or something more solid).
4. Go for a walk
This is going to depend on the situation — and obviously if going for a walk is going to stress you out, lay down instead. 😂 But sometimes if I notice that sitting or laying down isn’t making me feel better, I take that as a sign that I should go walk around somewhere. Nothing fast or crazy long, just a walk around the block (with some deep breaths) usually does the trick.
I’ll just close by saying that, before I started paying attention to what I ate and following the low FODMAP diet, I’d feel lousy pretty much all the time. Even after I started eating low FODMAP and was feeling pain-free most of the time, I still didn’t know how to deal with the occasional flare-up. I pretty much thought the only way to deal was to wait it out. Thankfully I’ve got these strategies in my back pocket now, and can control the pain & discomfort instead of it controlling my life!
And there you have it! Did I miss anything that you usually do? If so, be sure to let us know!
You might also like
AKA: Maria talks about science. Disclaimer: Both of my parents are biologists. Somehow, though, I hated science in school (especially chemistry). Now I’m about to talk to you about chemistry. The world is weird, isn’t it?
IBS = Irritable Bowel Syndrome. God I hate that name. It’s like when you’re having a bad day and someone comments, “Well, you sure are grumpy today.” That just makes me more grumpy. Perhaps I should back up. IBS is a gastrointestinal disorder…
I realized that I’ve written about EATING sourdough bread before on the blog (a lot, actually), but never really gave a good explanation as to why I COULD. So here we are!