Aging and Digestion

How to Manage IBS Through the Life Stages

Relief Report 026: How to Handle IBS Throughout the Life Stages

Relief Report 026: How to Handle IBS Throughout the Life StagesTo get clear on your Triggers, download our checklist here

Posted by Stephanie Clairmont, RD on Wednesday, January 24, 2018


Do you find that your symptoms and triggers have changed over the years as you get older? Or maybe they change with the ebb and flow of life, when you are in the midst of a transition or change, and stress may be higher than usual? This is normal! It is expected that your health will change as you get older or when you experience stressful or new situations. The good news is that there are some ways to help you manage these triggers throughout your whole life from childhood to late adulthood. Getting control of your tiggers will help you live a healthy and happy life. You might be aware that certain foods or beverages are triggers for your symptoms, but have you ever thought that the lifestyle you are living could also be contributing to your symptoms? In my experience from working with all sorts of clients at different stages in life, I’ve seen quite a range of factors that can be contributing to symptoms. So today’s post is all about  how to better manage your symptoms no matter what life stage you’re a right now, and better prepare you for the changes you might expect are coming!

Aging and Digestion: IBS in Childhood

There are many reasons why a child might be experiencing IBS symptoms including transitions into new schools even just starting a new grades, with new friends and new teachers. For some children, beginning school or entering a new grade is fun and exciting. But for others it can be scary and stressful. Changing up their environment and forcing them to make new friends might result in stress and unwanted symptoms. Problems at home with siblings or parents may also be contributing to symptoms. Anything that creates stress in their lives can disturb proper digestion which can lead to symptoms like gas, bloating, abdominal pain, and changes in stool. Another reason children may experience IBS symptoms is because they aren’t eating the proper foods to maintain their health. It is important to make note of what they’re eating and what they’re not eating. Maybe you served them a healthy meal at dinner time, but did they eat it? Or did they fill up on things like processed crackers before dinner? Taking a look at what they’re eating and how to improve their diet may be needed to help manage their symptoms and reduce triggers.  

How to Manage IBS in Childhood

If your child is experiencing digestive symptoms, there are a variety of ways to help them. If your child expresses digestive discomfort on a regular basis, then it is important to set up an appointment with your doctor to get any necessary test and screening done. Then, depending on what the doctor finds, it may be good to meet with a registered dietitian who specializes in digestive health. Digestion problems here and there are normal and expected, but constant complaints of stomach aches, bloating, constipation or diarrhea raises concerns that need to be dealt with by a professional. This can help start the process of getting a diagnosis, and get the child and parent on their way to forming a plan to identify those triggers and reduce symptoms as early as possible. Ignoring their symptoms might cause the child to think this is a normal feeling which we definitely want to avoid! The right health care professional can help you and your child understand what is causing the problem and how to deal with it. In addition to seeing a dietitian, parents can promote good gut health by encouraging healthy eating, physical activity, and participation in extracurricular activities to expand social circles and support networks.

Aging and Digestion: IBS in Students

There are many aspects of a student’s life that aren’t always the best for promoting good gut health. Students tend to have increased anxiety and stress from heavy course loads and pressure to have high grades. This also leads to decreased sleep as a result of their busy schedule. Stress and lack of sleep can also lead to an increase in caffeine consumption, which can be a trigger for some people. Students in postsecondary school often live in residence or on their own, so it’s not always easy to make good for your gut food choices. All of these factors are not giving them the time needed to take care of their bodies, such as cooking healthy meals, exercising and regularly visiting the doctor. These lifestyle factors could make symptoms worse, which is ultimately going to make dealing with the school stress more challenging.

How to Manage IBS in Students

In order to reduce your symptoms, it is important to identify what is causing them. Once you figure out your triggers, you can make some lifestyle changes to better manage them. It is completely understandable that some common stressors can’t be reduced, such as courses or exams. That is a normal part of life! But there are lifestyle strategies that can be added to your life to help you manage them and start living with a little less stress. These can include managing your time to reduce stress and keep up with deadlines, having relaxing breaks to read a book that you enjoy or watch a movie or TV series with a friend. Taking quick breaks to exercise is also a good way to help manage stress, and you’ll never have access to cheaper group fitness classes than when you are in university or college, as most schools offer very affordable student rates at the campus recreation facilities. Taking advantage of your student benefits to go get a message during exam time is also a great idea! You might think you don’t have time for breaks, but self-care is just as important as those grades. Making time for yourself will make you happier, which will result in you being more productive at school. It’s a win-win!

Instead of reaching for that second or third cup of coffee in the afternoon because you’re low on energy, you might consider going for a short energizing walk, opting for decaf or half-calf to lessen your caffeine consumption if it is a digestive trigger for you, or maybe having a snack to boost your energy instead. In order to ensure you are taking proper care of your diet, it is a good idea to consider meal prepping. It is very common to push healthy eating aside in order to keep up with deadlines and devote your time to studying. Taking time to cook meals for the days you know you will be busy will help you stay on track and not eat processed foods that might be triggers for your symptoms. Another way to do this is by freezing leftovers so that there is always something on hand when you’re in a pinch.

Aging and Digestion: IBS in Adults

As adults, our lives become full with work and family responsibilities. All these things can lead to feeling tired, stressed and burnt out. What do we do when we are constantly stressed and tired. We may turn to coffee. We may rely on a good glass of wine at the end of a long day. And we may begin to crave high sugar and carbohydrate-rich foods to help get us through the day. All of these are common IBS triggers. Add this to too much stress and there’s a good chance your symptoms will act up. When we are so busy all of the time, it is likely that these symptoms will be pushed aside. We know that isn’t the answer! It’s ok to be busy, but like I’ve already said, there is always time to make time for yourself. You might not have time to do this every single day, but a couple times a week it is important to do things that make you happy and calm you down.

Poor diet and lack of physical activity as an adult is another common reason why we might be experiencing symptoms. It is really easy to pick up a pizza after work or order in some takeout, but that isn’t a healthy long-term answer to dealing with your stress. Taking care of your diet and paying attention to what triggers your symptoms is important, but that isn’t going to happen with take-out every night. There can also be added stress from financial concerns or taking care of elderly parents that can take an emotional toll on our body and increase symptoms.

How to Manage IBS in Adulthood

If you can’t reduce the daily stressors of your life, then my best suggestion is to try incorporating some daily practices into your life to help keep your stress levels under control. Some ideas are meditation, low-moderate intensity activity such as yoga or walking, your favourite music, or a good night’s rest. Try out some new hobbies or make time for old ones that have fallen by the wayside. A common motto here is that we are only as busy as we make ourselves! You have the power to decide to make self-care a priority. If you have a dentist appointment scheduled for Thursday afternoon you wouldn’t cancel it, right? So why is it any different than scheduling a yoga class or 30 minute walk? Practice time management and I assure you that it is possible to make it work! There are a lot of things we can’t fully control in life, especially when kids and elderly parents are involved, however, making sure you are managing your time efficiently can help you get everything done with time to spare for yourself. Remember, it’s only when we are properly taking care of ourselves that we can best take care of those who need us most!

To help improve your diet, try meal prepping healthy freezer meals for those busy days where you won’t have time to cook. Or cook big batches of dinner one night that can be eaten throughout the week or thrown in the freezer. You can even take these leftovers for lunch the next day to ensure you are staying on track all day.


Aging and Digestion: IBS in Older Adults

As we age and enter into the over 50 category, many lifestyle factors change yet again which can also affect digestive health. Older adults tend to take part in physical activity less often because they don’t want to get hurt or maybe they are constantly sore or tired which makes it really hard to find the motivation to move! There are times when they have increased stress and a hard time dealing with emotions because of family or friends passing away. Anxiety and depression experienced by older adults might also contribute to increased symptoms, as the connection between the gut and mental health can be a real influencer.

It’s interesting to note that when we look at hormonal changes that come with aging, specifically in females, that it has been reported in research that menopausal women have reduced IBS symptoms. It is thought that this could be because of estrogen and progesterone levels decreasing.

How to Manage IBS in Older Adults

It is important to take part in low to moderate-intensity activities such as walking a couple times a week, as well as keeping close connections with family and friends to maintain strong social networks and supports. Call up your son or granddaughter to go shopping, go for a walk, or maybe even go out for a meal! This is especially important if you are going through a tough time to help keep your spirits high. Eating healthy meals is also important during this life stage to help keep energy levels up. Your food triggers can also change as you age, since our bodies tend to make less digestive enzymes as we age, so keep this in mind if you start to experience symptoms in response to foods that never used to cause you a problem! It may be time to re-evaluate things.  


It is important to identify your triggers, but it is also important to realize that they are going to change over your lifetime. Don’t get bogged down by these stressors, take control of your life and practice self-care. You might need to make certain lifestyle adjustments in order to keep living a symptom free, happy life, but it’s all part of the process! If you need help doing this, I’d love for you to join me in the CLAIRITY program.


Wishing you much love and happiness,



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