“Feel Better Soup”…and Other Ways to Get Through a Flare Successfully

It occurred to me a few days ago that I haven’t written one of my easiest and most-used recipes: the simplest low-FODMAP chicken noodle soup you’ll ever make, or “Feel Better Soup” as I like to call it.

To give you a little background, I was in a near-constant state of flare with my PI-IBS last spring/summer. It was miserable, especially while I was trying to stop weight loss and regain all the muscle I had lost throughout the winter and early spring. I had to eat something, but similar to recovering from a particularly nasty stomach bug, you don’t necessarily want to eat after a flare. You just feel yucky.

Hence, the creation of the “Feel Better Soup” recipe.

As a child with a stomach bug, my mother would always start me out with ice chips…work me up to crackers, Sprite, and vanilla wafers…and then eventually transition into chicken noodle soup. As an adult facing a PI-IBS flare, I decided to do the same thing, just with low-FODMAP alternatives.

To break my stomach back in after a flare, I always start out with gluten-free Glutino table crackers and/or a banana. If that sits well, I do the soup at my next meal. Here’s the recipe for a crockpot full of the good stuff:

Utensils/appliances you’ll need:

The Recipe

Ingredients you’ll need:

  • 1 package of boneless, skinless chicken breasts (typically 1 to 1 1/2 pounds)
  • 2 tablespoons Fody Food Co. Chicken Soup Base
  • 12 cups water
  • Half a package of Sommers Homestyle Gluten-Free Egg Noodles (We typically get these at The Amish Store in Branson, MO, but we’ve also ordered them online from the hyperlinked website. This company does a fantastic job of packaging the noodles so they don’t break! I’m sure there are other decent GF egg noodles out there, but these are by far the best we’ve had. They don’t turn to mush before you can eat them!)

Directions:

  • Put your chicken, then soup base, and then water into the crockpot and turn it on low for 8-9 hours (or high for 4-5 hours).
  • After the cook time is up, shred the chicken breasts (they should be tender enough to just twist a few times with a fork in the crockpot…they’ll fall right apart!). With the crockpot on low, add the egg noodles for 8-10 minutes. Serve immediately.

I promise, this super easy soup recipe has gotten me through some bad, bad days. It’s really nice having something we can easily prepare that also tastes truly comforting when I don’t feel great.

On that note, here are a few other tips for getting through a bad IBS/PI-IBS flare:

  • Calm your breathing. This is significant, although it may not seem like it. I, unfortunately, dealt with flare-induced panic attacks for about eight months after my diagnosis. This was because my flares would trigger PTSD flashbacks of when I first got sick on the cruise ship (the reason why I have PI-IBS and, subsequently, PTSD). As you may or may not know, stress and anxiety can trigger an IBS flare by themselves, but adding them to a flare caused by other triggers can make the flare exponentially worse. Thank goodness for PTSD therapy, which gave me techniques I can use to stay calm when a flare happens now – but even without PTSD, an IBS flare is enough to cause anyone anxiety. That being said, a simple breathing technique can do wonders to calm you down during a stressful flare situation. Simply breathe in evenly through your nose for four seconds, hold it for four seconds, breathe out through your mouth for six seconds, and hold it for two seconds before repeating the cycle 10-12 times. As you breathe, be sure to focus all your attention on your breathing…don’t let the anxiety take over your thoughts. This is called the 4-4-6-2 breathing cycle.
  • Keep a heating pad close. Putting a heating pad on your stomach during/after a flare feels really good, and it can also help relax the muscles in your colon, which will reduce cramps and spasms.
  • Get some loose clothes.  Ha!  I’m really not kidding, though.  A weird side effect of my PI-IBS case is that I have become highly sensitive to anything touching my stomach.  That’s why you’ll hardly ever see me wearing anything fitted these days.  During/after flares (and honestly during day-to-day-life), I wear yoga pants and floppy t-shirts at home or loose dresses/leggings with loose shirts if I’m at work or going out in public.  Keeping pressure off my abdominal region is a very important part of helping me feel better.
  • Take a warm bath after the flare subsides. Same principle as above – the heat can be very comforting. Throw in some Bath and Body Works Stress Relief bubble bath for an even more calming experience.
  • Be careful with pain relievers. I know flares can cause pretty significant pain, but be careful with taking pain relievers (specifically Ibuprofen and Advil), as most of them are hard on the digestive system and can make your symptoms worse. If you need to take something, stick with over-the-counter Tylenol within the recommended dose for relief, and speak with your doctor if this doesn’t help. Some IBS medicines (like the one I take) can help control pain better than any kind of pain reliever.
  • Rest. You’d think this would go without saying, but it definitely needs to be stated for many of us. Oftentimes, we don’t give ourselves time to recover – especially when flares are a normal part of our lives. However, slowing down for the evening and getting a good night’s sleep for a night or two can really help when you are trying to recover. Give your body the time it needs to recover.
  • Exercise. After your symptoms have subsided, and definitely as part of your regular routine, you need to incorporate exercise. A day or two after your flare, go for a light walk or do some yoga. Getting your endorphins up will help curb anxiety and make you feel better quicker. Of course, regular exercise will help even more, but definitely consider what works for you. For example, high-intensity workouts like running or crossfit are known to cause digestive distress in even the healthiest people; instead, stick with low-intensity workouts like yoga, swimming, biking, walking, and low-intensity weightlifting/core exercises. These will help you feel better and build core strength to take stress off your abdominal region without upsetting your digestive system.
  • Track your flares for symptoms. Look for your personal potential triggers through tracking your flares. Keep a food diary to see possible triggers, and look at what’s happening throughout the flare days for potential commonalities. For example, we learned that stress is a major trigger for me by tracking my flares and assessing what I had going on in the 24 hours prior to the flare, that one of my allergy medicines contained high-FODMAP ingredients which caused me to flare because I tracked what was different, and that beef and too much tomato trigger me (even though these are technically low-FODMAP based on serving size) by keeping track of the foods I eat.
  • Meditate. I’ve honestly been quite surprised at how helpful meditation is in stress and anxiety relief. I now have a set schedule of meditating twice per day, fifteen minutes per session. This started out as part of my PTSD therapy, but I do it now because it’s so helpful in keeping me calm and content, even on flare days. There are a lot of guided meditations out there if you aren’t comfortable or familiar with meditation. I personally enjoy turning on some meditation music while doing my 4-4-6-2 breathing cycles for each session.

Going through a flare is never fun, but being disciplined in these suggested methods can definitely help you gain some control over your flares. And never forget – you are one tough human being for living this life every day!

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