How to Quickly Ease Stomach Pain from IBS

1
Finding Quick Relief for Stomach Pain

girl on couch with hot water bottle
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Finding quick relief is important when you're experiencing stomach pain due to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Even if you're just having a bad tummy day, you may find some comfort in the fact that there are things you can do to soothe and ease your pain. 

Before we begin, it's important to note that recurrent abdominal pain should be brought to the attention of your doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment. Also, strong abdominal pain can be an indicator of a serious health condition that needs immediate medical attention. To be on the safe side, it's a good idea to know when to go to the ER for stomach pain.

2
Apply Heat

Woman in bed with heating pad
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Applying warmth to your belly will not only help soothe you psychologically, but it can also speed up pain relief. Research indicates that the best results are achieved with low-level and continuous heat. 

There are a variety of ways to apply heat to your abdomen. Your personal preference and where you happen to be will determine which works best for you at the moment.

  • Use a heating pad. Be sure to protect your skin with clothing or a towel.
  • Try a hot water bottle. This is an excellent choice for overnight use.
  • Apply sports creams. Topical pain relievers are a good method of fast pain relief on the go.

3
Sip a Cup of Tea

close-up of a tea cup being held by a woman
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Like a heating pad, there is something soothing about a nice cup of tea. Each of the following types of tea has a reputation for soothing digestive distress. 

  • Peppermint tea is often the best choice.
  • Chamomile tea can be soothing but is not appropriate for a low-FODMAP diet.
  • Anise tea is good for constipation.
  • Fennel tea is also good for constipation, but it is high-FODMAP as well.

Keep your pantry well-stocked and try to have tea bags with you at all times. This ensures that you'll have some handy whenever your tummy acts up.

4
Eat Carefully

bowl of broth
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If your belly is hurting due to digestion problems, you won't want to make things worse with food. So, what should you eat? Try to limit your foods to those that are light, healthy, and easy on the stomach.

  • Broth
  • Lean protein like chicken, turkey, or pork
  • Lactose-free yogurt
  • Steamed vegetables

At the same time, try to avoid foods that will cause more stomach discomfort:

Once your pain has eased, you can slowly go back to eating your regular diet. If you have IBS and your stomach pain is chronic, you will want to find a ​long-term way of eating that helps and doesn't worsen your symptoms.

5
Try an Over-the-Counter Supplement

Woman shopping in a drugstore
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There are a few products available without a prescription that may help to ease your pain. It's a good idea to have one of these with you at all times so it's ready when the pain strikes. 

  • Peppermint oil has been shown by research to be an antispasmodic. This means that it reduces muscle spasms and cramping, which can ease the pain you're feeling.
  • Gas-relieving products are readily available at stores. If your abdominal pain feels more like trapped gas than cramping, you may find relief by taking a product containing simethicone.

6
Calm Your Mind and Body

woman relaxing on couch
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When we are in pain, we tend to get anxious. Unfortunately, anxiety brings with it a heightened state of physical arousal that can make our pain worse. Taking a few minutes to calm down can be quite effective. 

Relaxation exercises are a way to break the cycle of anxiety and pain. They offer a way to "turn off" the state of heightened physical arousal. Of course, they work better with regular practice, but can still offer some benefits for immediate pain relief.

Here are three basic types of exercises — visualizationdeep breathing, and muscle relaxation. With a little experimentation, you can decide which work best for you. 

7
Use Your Imagination

man with eyes closed
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Believe it or not, you can soothe your body and promote healing through the use of healing imagery. This is not just hocus-pocus, either. There is research to support that engaging your imagination can lead to physical changes within your body and lessen your experience of pain. Of course, it will not be as powerful as, say, morphine, but every little bit of pain relief can help.

After you have calmed your body with relaxation exercises, stimulate your imagination and conjure up a few soothing pain relieving images. Here are some possibilities, but feel free to let your imagination soar:

  • Imagine a white healing light coming into your body and swirling all around your belly, healing and soothing your aggravated ​digestive tract.
  • Imagine that the pain is a hard ball of wax that is slowly melting as you envision a warm, healing heat spread through the area.
  • Imagine that a soft, healing balm is making its way ​through your colon, serving to cool, soothe, and calm the inflamed tissue.

8
Listen to a Hypnotherapy Recording

woman with earbuds in
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Hypnosis has strong research support for easing the symptoms of IBS, including abdominal pain. Ideally, you want to be engaged in an ongoing hypnotherapy treatment program for best results. For now, while you are in immediate pain, you may be able to benefit from the relaxation of listening to a gut-directed hypnosis tape.

The quickest way is to download an app on your smartphone or device. There are quite a few IBS-specific hypnotherapy apps available. Yet, it's best to find one that's backed by research like SoundsLikeIBS.

Sources:

Gatchel R, Turk, D. Psychological Approaches to Pain Management. 2nd ed. New York, NY: The Guilford Press; 2013.

Royal College of Nursing (UK). Irritable Bowel Syndrome in Adults. 2008.

O’Connor A, McCarberg B.  A New Look at Heat Treatment for Pain Disorders, Part 2. American Pain Society Bulletin 2005 15.

Palsson O. Hypnosis Treatment of Gastrointestinal Disorders: A Comprehensive Review of the Empirical Evidence. American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis. 2015;134-58.

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