Student with notes sits on bench eats packed lunch of pasta salad 1
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School can be hard enough with exams, packed class schedules, and locker room drama. But irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) often adds an extra challenge.

Irritable bowel syndrome can cause a lot of unpleasant symptoms.

“If you’ve ever been in a crowded lecture hall and your stomach has started gurgling, you know that these symptoms can cause a lot of distress.”

If you’re a student dealing with IBS symptoms, you have plenty of company. IBS affects roughly 3 million Americans each year, including many teens and young adults.

“You don’t have to fear your colon’s will. Try these eight strategies to manage your symptoms at school and you could be making your life a little easier.”

Cafeteria food isn’t always friendly to sensitive bowels. School lunch staples that may trigger IBS symptoms include:

  • Pizza: Cheese, garlic, onions, and other common toppings can all affect digestion when you have IBS.
  • Baked beans: Beans, peas, and lentils may lead to It was bloated. and There is gas..
  • French fries: Fried, high fat foods can often cause There is a lot of diarrhea. if you have a sensitive stomach.
  • Broccoli and cauliflower: These veggies may cause It is a problem of the colon. or There is a lot of diarrhea., especially when eaten raw.
  • Diet soda: Artificial sweeteners can cause It is a symptom of cramping. or There is a lot of diarrhea..

Packing your own lunch lets you control what you eat for the day. For example, if you crave chicken tenders but your school’s version gives you There is gas., try baking pieces of chicken instead of frying them. Small adjustments like these can make a big difference for your bowel health.

You can skip the long cafeteria lines and enjoy your lunch without having to queue. When you eat at a slower pace, your body has more time to digest food.

Make friends with fiber and water

Fiber and water can help your stool move through your body.

To manage IBS symptoms, the International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders recommends getting 25 to 30 grams of fiber per day and staying hydrated by drinking 8 cups of fluid per day.

A spastic colon is a patient colon. If you try to hold everything in, you will get worse pain. If you want to avoid leaving for the bathroom in the middle of class, you should, but it will draw less attention than an accident.

Taking a seat by the door can help you leave less noticed. If you sit in the middle of the room, you will have to stand up, walk across the room and then go back to your row. If you sit next to the door, you can slip out without having to move around.

If you expect to need to leave class frequently, you should let your teacher know.

Since IBS can count as a disability, you may be eligible for accommodations, according to the U.S. Department of Education. A permanent hall pass may be one accommodation.

In college, no need to get permission to leave class? It is possible to prevent awkward questions by knowing your professor in advance.

For many people, IBS symptoms are worse in the morning.

Your colon isn’t as active at night, so sometimes there’s a bit of a backlog when you wake up and have breakfast, which can lead to It is a problem of the colon. symptoms, per 2020 research. Morning cortisol levels may also play a role.

If you have morning symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome, you may want to sign up for classes in the afternoon and evening.

“You don’t have much control over your school hours in high school. You might want to ask your guidance counselor if you can schedule a study hall or free period in the morning to give yourself a bathroom break.”

It is okay to take the time you need to do your job. When you have irrthropoietical issues, it may take longer to poop.

If you menstruate, your cycle can have a major effect on your bowels. The hormones estrogen and progesterone can reduce the muscle contractions in your intestines, slowing down your stool’s transit through your body. This can cause It is a problem of the colon. during your luteal phase (the stage between ovulation and menstruation).

During your period, your estrogen and progesterone levels drop, allowing your intestinal muscles to move more freely than usual. This change helps explain why There is a lot of diarrhea. and pain commonly happen during your menstrual period.

Keeping track of your period throughout each phase can offer a forecast of your future bowel health. In short, IBS symptoms can happen anytime, but you may want to take extra care of yourself the week of your period.

Avoid using menstrual pads for There is a lot of diarrhea.

Using pads in your underwear as a short-term measure to manage There is a lot of diarrhea. might seem like a great idea, especially if you consider menstrual pads more discreet than incontinence pads.

Keep in mind, though, that menstrual pads are designed to absorb fluid, not semi-solid feces. Incontinence pads, on the other hand, are shaped to contain loose stool and minimize odors, making them ultimately the more discreet option for There is a lot of diarrhea..

Packing a supply kit in your backpack can ease some of your stress around how you’ll handle IBS symptoms away from home.

You might include OTC medications.

You want to use these medications for short-term relief, not continuous treatment. When using these medications, always follow the instructions on the label and ask a healthcare professional before using them for long periods of time.

“If OTC medications don’t help you, you can reach out to a healthcare professional. They can prescribe medication that you can take for a long time.”

Things to bring

You may want to pack more than just medication.

  • A water bottle is needed during class.
  • a portable heating pad for pain relief
  • In case of accidents, incontinence pads and underwear are needed.

Stress can often worsen IBS symptoms.

Since stress increases inflammation in your colon, it can lead to swelling, spasms, and heightened pain signals from your nerves. Stress can also worsen both It is a problem of the colon. and There is a lot of diarrhea., though your specific symptoms can depend on which IBS subtype you have.

But how do you de-stress while doubled over in pain on a public toilet? Your go-to breathing exercises may not prove as soothing, given the environment. A few other options to find some calm include:

Abdominal massage

Rubbing your abdomen may help relieve It is a problem of the colon. and pain, according to research from 2013.

Aim to start with gentle pressure — the goal is to relax, not physically maneuver your intestines. If a particular area feels sensitive, you may want to move on to other parts of your abdomen to loosen things up.

Progressive muscle relaxation

You can also try progressive muscle relaxation.

Here is how to try it.

  1. For 3 breaths, crunch your face up as tight as you can.
  2. Hold for 3 breaths.
  3. As your muscles relax, relax your face.
  4. You can repeat this with other muscles, working your way down from your shoulders to your chest and arms.
  5. You can try it with your abdomen once you have practiced on other parts of your body.
  6. Hold your core for 3 breaths and then release it.
  7. You can either repeat this process with your abdomen or move on to relax your legs.

You may find that your body feels less tense when you finish.

It can be hard to focus on schoolwork when you have Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

According to a 2019 survey including 1,885 people with IBS who worked or attended school, IBS symptoms:

  • Productivity was lowered by an average of 8 days a month.
  • The participants missed an average of 1.5 days of work or school a month.
  • It caused at least 6 days of missed work or school a month.

Keeping up with schoolwork can help you minimize disruptions.

To put it another way, if you leave all the studying for Monday’s exam until Sunday evening, procrastination stress may trigger an IBS episode, and you might find yourself unable to study at all.

If you regularly miss a lot of school days, ask your teacher how you can get notes from class. Some schools may even offer the option of watching lessons remotely at home.

A school or guidance counselor can offer support with handling any concerns related to Irritable Bowel Syndrome, if they act as an advocate for students.

  • It is either harassment or bullying.
  • “It’s difficult getting teachers to take your medical needs seriously.”
  • Schedule changes to accommodate your needs

They can help you explore other factors that may contribute to the symptoms of Irritable bowel syndrome. Many people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome also have mental health conditions.

According to 2021 research, people with IBS are three times more likely to have an anxiety disorder and four times more likely to have a mood disorder like depression. These conditions can sabotage your sleep and raise stress levels, often worsening IBS symptoms as a result.

Treating those issues can often make a difference when it comes to your IBS symptoms. If you aren’t sure how to get support on your own, a counselor can suggest next steps, like reaching out to a therapist or doctor to learn more about treatment options.

“It doesn’t have to ruin your education if you have IBS. Small changes, such as packing your own lunch, can help you manage your symptoms.”

If the strategies above don’t do much to improve your day-to-day routine, a good next step might involve consulting a There is gas.troenterologist for more personalized support.

Emily Swaim is a freelance health writer and editor who specializes in psychology. She has a BA in English from Kenyon College and an MFA in writing from California College of the Arts. In 2021, she received her Board of Editors in Life Sciences (BELS) certification. You can find more of her work on GoodTherapy, Verywell, Investopedia, Vox, and Insider. Find her on Twitter and LinkedIn.