Know What Triggers Your IBD Flares

Elizabeth Roberts Health Guide
  • For me, one of the hardest parts of living with IBD is not knowing what triggers a flare or episode. Over the years of living successfully despite having Ulcerative Colitis I've pretty much accepted the fact that I never really know why my gut "goes off," as I've come to call it. And today, is just such a day. I've been fine, no, perfect, actually for the past few months. One or two perfect BMs per day, no cramps, no joint pain, no skin issues, and good energy.


    Yesterday, though, I woke up and the eczema patch on my left ring finger was back - red and itchy. I wrote it up as a fluke and ignored it. After dinner last night my gut felt slightly unsettled and I worried that my gut would go off in the middle of the night (why is it that flares usually tend to start at 4AM?) Well, all was good throughout the night. I even woke up, felt okay, took a shower, still okay, didn't have an appetite for breakfast but forced myself to eat some yogurt. And then, Wham-o! there came the first bout. Rushed to the bog just in time and have been in and out ever since. Is it really a colitis flare? (the eczema on my finger would make me believe this to be so). Or, could it be the flu? (but I did get a flu shot.) Or the shrimp we ate? (but it was fresh and properly prepared and cooked).

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    And talking to or asking a doctor their opinion is oftentimes just silly because as soon as they hear I have UC and diarrhea they immediately diagnose it as an IBD flare-up. I used to spend hours trying to figure out what caused a flare-up. My diet? Stress? A simple fluke? I now usually settle on simple fluke. I don't vary my diet anymore, I know what to eat and what not to eat and I just don't muck with it. Stress? It could be, sure. But in all honesty I've been a lot more stressed over the past 6 months and haven't had a flare-up. I just saw my husband as I made my way back to my computer from another bathroom call and he asked how I was feeling. "Drained and frustrated," I told him. "I just don't get this." "We never do," he reminded me. "But I think your head knew this was going to happen yesterday." "Why do you say that?" I asked him. "Because, at one point yesterday afternoon you said you hoped the colitis didn't rear its head while we're on vacation."


    I've done this before - predicted getting sick before it actually happens. The last time was about two years ago and we were at a festival. I'd been having a great time but all of a sudden I just wanted to go home. My husband wanted to stay to hear another band and have some dinner. But I insisted that we go home without really knowing why. He wasn't thrilled but I won and we went home. By 11PM my gut went off and I was in a full-fledged flare by morning. It's like my mind knows I'm going to flare before my body shows the outward signs. The good thing is I'm now very good at listening to my body and doing what it needs. But the still frustrating part of it all is not knowing why I can be fine and dandy one day and the next day Wham-o! A flare hits.


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    Oh well, can't dwell on it now as I'm back off to the bathroom, then for a glass of water. Don't want to get dehydrated!


    Elizabeth Roberts is the author of Living with IBD & IBS: A Personal Journey of Success -


Published On: December 12, 2008