If people can work on their stress and mental health issues and follow an IBS diet (I would recommend working with a nutritionist), they can find symptom relief.”
David Clarke, a clinical assistant professor of gastroenterology emeritus at Oregon Health and Science University, and author of the book “They Can’t Find Anything Wrong! : 7 Keys to Understanding, Treating, and Healing Stress Illness,” said in an email that relieving IBS can be a matter of treating mental health issues.
“Many IBS patients experience improvement in their symptoms when mental health issues are uncovered and treated,” Clarke said. “The prolonged effects of childhood stress (including child abuse), depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress are the most common [mental health issues associated with IBS].”
He suggested that doctors ask more questions about mental health issues when diagnosing and treating IBS.
“It is essential to screen for mental health issues because these may not be obvious,” Clarke said. “Depression, for example, is missed by doctors in 2/3 of cases because they don't ask enough questions to uncover it or because they don't inquire about it at all. Once uncovered, patients can be treated either by a primary care clinician or by a mental health professional.”
He agrees that more women tend to be seen for IBS. “In my practice, about 85 percent of patients with IBS linked to mental health issues were women,” Clarke said.
He particularly wants to emphasize how stress affects the body. “In many of my patients the IBS was caused or exacerbated by stress, particularly stress they didn't fully recognize,” Clarke said.
“These patients did not have a mental health issue but they were suffering because they didn't see the connection between their symptoms and the stresses in their lives. One common example is a person who cares for everyone in her world but has difficulty taking time for herself. These are often people who didn't get adequate opportunities to play as children and so failed to learn good self-care skills.”