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How Much Control Do We Really Have Over Our Triggers?

If you ask 10 people with inflammatory bowel disease what they think triggers a flare for them, the chances are that you will get multiple different responses.

When I say triggers a flare, I mean is a factor in going from remission to being in a flare. Not what might irritate or cause pain in the gut for a short period of time.

Identifying and avoiding IBD triggers

Personally, I think it's super important to figure out what your triggers are if you can so that you can do your best to avoid them. But IBD is so complicated, and everyone's disease affects them in different ways, so it really can just be a whole lot of trial and error!

Then, there's a human error to take into account! We may sometimes automatically link symptoms to an action because we feel the need to explain it. To find a reason. I get it, and I have done it countless times myself!

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What can lead to an IBD flare?

There are studies happening right now that are looking at the external and internal factors which could lead to a flare, such as PREdiCCt in the UK. This study is looking at things such as diet, sleep, and stress, as well as DNA and gut micro-organisms.

I would love it if one day we could know for sure what triggers flares in people with Crohn's and colitis, but for the moment, it feels very much up in the air, and different for each individual.

Some things are easier to control than others. If there are a few foods or drinks that you believe caused you to flare, it will be easier to avoid those than if it’s whole food groups! A complete change in diet will obviously take much more time and effort to get your head around.

The impact of stress on flares

Stress is one of those I also hear a lot, but we often feel stressed because of factors that are out of our control. How do you control stress?! I feel stressed just thinking about it!

Seriously though, it's complicated! I am a pretty "stress" person. I have tried no end of mindfulness and meditation apps, coping strategies and self-help... I just ended up stressing about the fact that I didn’t seem to have any control!

Would an ability to deal with stress better have prevented a flare coming? Does that make my flares my fault? Personally, I am inclined to go with no.

Triggers and flares are hard to control

There is so much we still don’t know about inflammatory bowel disease, but so many genetic markers have been identified that appear to play a role in someone having IBD, and having those is certainly not my fault?

I am all about looking after myself as well as I can, but that has to be within my own limits. I try to exercise on a daily basis and I eat as healthy as is possible for me.

I try to balance my work and spare time so I don't tire myself out too much. I have made a conscious effort to listen to my body and my mind and to recognize what it needs for years, but I still just went from one flare to the next and spent very little time in remission.

Yes, I think identifying triggers is really important, but don’t scold yourself if you can’t control every aspect of your life. It's important to remember that doing our best IS good enough.

If we make a few lifestyle changes along the way which improve our overall health, then that’s great! But one thing I do know for sure is that right now, IBD is very unpredictable!

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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