6 Symptoms Of An IBD Flare



The Colitis Coach

With chronic illness, it’s natural to assume your condition is to blame every time you start to feel unwell.

But there are some tell-tale signs of colitis inflammation which you should definitely not ignore.

A combination of any the following symptoms increases the likelihood you might be flaring:

1. Diarrhoea.

The squirts. The Jimmy Britts. Montezuma’s revenge.

Whatever you call it, most people with colitis (but not all) experience loose and urgent bowel movements.

There are a number of other reasons why you might have diarrhoea but mucus, pus or blood in your stool might suggest a flare-up.

2. Fatigue.

Low mental and physical energy can be caused by a number of factors such as:

  • poor sleep
  • medication
  • dehydration
  • anxiety/depression
  • anaemia
  • infection
  • illness/medical conditions
  • hormonal changes
  • unhealthy diet

I find almost every person I meet with IBD has experienced some symptoms ranging from feeling “a little foggy” to “completely zonked”.

Annoyingly, fatigue often lingers even when disease is inactive.

But if fatigue is persistent over many days, is intermittent, and doesn’t go away with rest, then it’s potentially a symptom of a flare.

3. Bloating.

The ‘gurgles’ is my early red flag that something ain’t right.

For me it feels like a bubbling, churning sensation which makes it difficult to squeeze my abdominal muscles.

Weirdly, I also find it often leads directly to restless legs, particularly when trying to sleep at night.

Farting is a perfectly normal part of digestion (up to 25 times per day apparently).

But when gas gets trapped, particularly lower down in your tummy, and won’t shift even after using the toilet, it can be a sign of inflammation.

4. Pain and cramping.

Tummy pains are associated with indigestion, periods, trapped wind and a variety of intolerances and infections.

Blockages, distention and active inflammation can all make your gut feel like it’s getting squeezed inside a vice.

Be on the look out for abdominal pain after eating, during a bowel movement or persistent pain in the rectum.

5. Unexpected weight loss.

Loss of appetite is very common during a flare-up. 

You might be nauseous or anxious about diarrhoea – either way it’s natural to want to skip meals.

A lack of calories and nutrients going in, combined with poor absorption due to diarrhoea, and you’re likely to lose weight.

If you lose weight without trying, and notice wounds are slow to heal, this could be a sign of malnutrition due to a flare-up.

6. Tenesmus.

The urgency to poo despite having an empty colon.

Around 30% of UC and Crohn’s experience tenesmus during a flare-up.

This is a common symptom if colitis is located in or around the rectum.

When inflamed, the nerves in this area may be irritated and overreact, tricking your brain into thinking that you need to empty your bowels.

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