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Understanding The Stress and IBS Connection

Stress is something we all experience from time to time, but its effect on the body of a person who has a diagnosed condition of Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a little different. It is complex and frustrating.

Health experts have found a link between stress and IBS. Having this disorder can create physical and emotional disturbances—and it is easy to get stuck in this vicious cycle. It means that if you are not careful, IBS can elevate your stress levels triggering other health issues.

It is established that around one in five people in the US with IBS report that the onset of IBS symptoms began following a significant stressful life event, such as bereavement, divorce, or redundancy. The consensus in the medical community is that anxiety, tension, and other forms of stress can trigger or worsen symptoms of IBS.

Studies show that the connection between IBS and stress may be cyclical as they occur simultaneously.

What is IBS?

IBS or Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a painful digestive disorder that can be debilitating. The symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome are abdominal pain, cramps, bloating and gas, constipation, or diarrhea.

Some experts suggest the primary cause of IBS is the sensitivity and reaction of the large intestine to certain foods and stress. While the symptoms are unpleasant, they do not indicate severe damage to the intestines or other gastrointestinal diseases.

Besides, treatments can help manage IBS symptoms and discomfort, but there is no cure for the condition.

People with irritable bowel syndrome can experience stress, which exacerbates their symptoms as the colon is linked to the nervous system. Wondering how?

Let us explore it briefly.

How do stress and anxiety trigger IBS?

Stress can worsen IBS symptoms, but it is not the only direct cause of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). However, there is some interesting connection between them.

When you are stressed or anxious, your sympathetic nervous system activates. This system triggers a series of hormonal reactions that raise your heart rate, increase blood flow to your muscles, pumps breath rate, and slow down digestion. That is, stress can result in multiple side-effects to the human body, which further trigger IBS. For instance,

  • In stressful situations, like IBS, the brain is more focused on body sensations, including pain.
  • Stress can cause changes in the quantity and quality of gut bacteria, resulting in IBS.
  • Your immune system may become activated, which adversely can cause pain from the nerve cells to increase in IBS patients.

On the other hand, IBS symptoms may be the result of this brain-gut imbalance. Neurons in the stomach communicate with the brain in various ways. The brain sends signals to the stomach and intestines to control digestion. Meanwhile, the gut may send feedback signals back to the brain. The IBS, however, may disrupt this standard communication and can be felt consciously as pain.

5 ways to manage IBS stress

1. Journal your thoughts

Journaling when experiencing anxiety is a great way to release mental distress. It can provide you with an outlet to vent frustration or keep track of your feelings. Besides, journaling can help you become more aware of your symptoms and find practical solutions for dealing with them.

2. Exercise daily

Walking and other physical activities help reduce symptoms caused by stress. Another upside is that athletic activities tend to lead to regular bowel movements.

3. Mindful practices

One way to manage the discomfort associated with IBS is by engaging in mindful practices like deep breathing and healthy eating. Even 5 minutes of meditation has proved to reduce stress significantly. Eating mindfully means being conscious and slowly consuming every bite while paying attention to how the food you have eaten will nourish you and not cause symptoms.

4. Get plenty of sleep

Make sure to regularly wind down from your workday and get at least seven to eight hours of sleep per night. It will help you stay energized throughout the day.

Ps. You must get ready for bed at a regular time and avoid using technology and gadgets in bed.

5. Seek professional help

A professional can teach you ways to cope with stress related to IBS, including cognitive-behavioural techniques. It may also help you learn how to identify stressors and strategies to manage them. Besides, IBS support groups can be a source of validation and a place to share thoughts. If you want to meet people who have IBS like you, join a support group.

If you are suffering from chronic digestive issues like IBS, don’t let this be your reality! Our certified professionals will help you resolve these issues. Call us on to book an appointment.

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