Tips for Dressing if You Have IBS

Medically Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, MS, DO on August 31, 2021
4 min read

What you wear is a critical component of your identity. Your clothes can suggest your personality, job, social status, and much more. ‌

But many conditions that cause bloating influence what you can wear. These changes make you feel uncomfortable and can affect how you want to present yourself. So, what can you do?

IBS, or irritable bowel syndrome, is a common gastrointestinal condition. It can lead to bloating and other gastrointestinal discomforts, such as abdominal cramps and pain. ‌

IBS is a long-term condition, no matter its severity. It affects how you go about your daily life, including what you wear.‌

Bloating. Bloating can cause your clothes to feel uncomfortable. As your guts fill with gas, food, or stool, your stomach and waistline get bigger.‌

Bloating already causes pain and discomfort. But as you become bloated, your clothes can cause additional discomfort if the clothes don't stretch to accommodate. 

Preventing IBS flare-ups. Many people manage their IBS with lifestyle changes, but some require medication for treatment. The most common causes of IBS flare-ups are certain types of food and stress.

In some situations, stress can be unavoidable. It's essential to prepare for these circumstances by making yourself as comfortable as possible.

You can avoid some discomfort from bloating by wearing loose-fitting clothing like sweatpants. It's that easy, right?‌

While they may be comfortable, sweatpants and athletic wear aren't typically appropriate for professional settings. However, you don't need to wear skinny pants and tight-fitting shirts to be considered professional.‌

Moreover, clothes that aren't comfortable or that feel sloppy change your self-image. The balance you're searching for are clothes that feel comfortable and represent you.

Making drastic changes to your wardrobe is a challenge for anyone. For someone with IBS, there are additional criteria you need to consider when picking out clothes. 

Tight clothing becomes restrictive whenever you're bloated. If your clothes are too tight, the seams and waistbands can cause pain. General tightness can also make bloating more uncomfortable and painful. ‌

Restrictive, tight clothing can make trips to the bathroom stressful. Clothing that's hard to remove can cause dire complications in the bathroom.‌

Tight clothes can even cause bloating. This is because they restrict the movement of gas and cause it to build up. ‌

As a general rule, if your clothes are leaving marks on your skin, they're too tight. If it's only happening while you're bloated, consider the materials your clothes are made of to accommodate bloating.

Bottoms typically have a high, mid, or low-rise waist. The rise type will be dependent on your waist, belly, and bloating. Ultimately, your rise type is whatever is most comfortable, not the most stylish. ‌

You'll have to try different waist types to figure out which is most comfortable for you. Especially make sure your pants are comfortable when you're sitting and moving. Your pants should be comfortable at all times. 

Along with an appropriately sized waistband and rise, choose a waistband with elasticity. A flexible midsection in your pants will adjust easier if you have an IBS flare up with bloating.‌

The material of the pants should also have some elasticity. Consider getting pants with around 3% spandex to ensure it has some flexibility. For something less casual but still comfortable, pants like jeggings (stretchy jeans) are a great item to have. 

Most people with regular bloating feel like they can only wear oversized, flowy shirts. But certain shirt styles have shape and contour while still being flowy. A shirt that fits your style can improve your confidence and comfort levels. ‌

Shirts that are narrower at the top and wider at the bottom (an A-shape) give you a comfortable amount of room. This shape also creates a tapered look, giving your body shape while maintaining comfort. ‌

Alternatively, you can wear a shirt that's more fitted around the chest but flowy around your stomach. This style maintains the contours of your chest and shoulders without accenting any bloating in your midsection. 

You can use the above guidelines for formal clothing, too. Search for styles that fit your frame and can accommodate extra bloating.‌

Formal jumpsuits and dresses can be a bit impractical when it comes to bathroom trips. Instead, consider styles that are low-fuss when it comes to using the bathroom. Formal events can be stressful, and you don't want to get caught up with your clothes during a flare-up.