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IBS Awareness Month: Link Between Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Mental Health

By HERWriter
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If you’ve ever felt like your stomach was in knots after stressing over an upcoming test, you know the power your mind has to affect the rest of your body. April is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Awareness Month, and part of this awareness is exploring the connection between IBS and mental health.

IBS is a gastrointestinal disorder that is characterized by issues in the large intestine or colon, as well as the small intestine, according to the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders website. Common symptoms include “abdominal pain or discomfort,” “bloating or a sense of gaseousness,” and “a change in bowel habits (diarrhea and/or constipation),” according to the website.

Although IBS is a physical condition and the exact cause hasn’t been found yet, experts have found a link between IBS and mental health issues. According to the website, IBS could be a result of an “increased gastrointestinal response to stress.” However, stress can be defined by anything ranging from “physical activity” to “psychological stress.”

The website states that mental health issues shouldn’t be considered as a primary cause of IBS, and sometimes patients who have IBS later on develop mental health issues. For example, patients might become anxious and stressed over their symptoms because they don’t have control over them and the consequences can be embarrassing. The website does also state that psychological and emotional issues can aggravate IBS symptoms.

The National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC) website also states that the colon can be sensitive to stress for people with IBS.

“Stress—feeling mentally or emotionally tense, troubled, angry, or overwhelmed—can stimulate colon spasms in people with IBS,” according to the website.

“People often experience cramps or ‘butterflies’ when they are nervous or upset. In people with IBS, the colon can be overly responsive to even slight conflict or stress. Stress makes the mind more aware of the sensations that arise in the colon, making the person perceive these sensations as unpleasant.”

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Very interesting article! As an advocate for IBS sufferers, a lifetime member of the IFFGD, and a past IBS sufferer, patient support associate and IBS moderator, I can relate all too well with this article. There is no doubt that stress and emotions can play an active part in the IBS equation - many had IBS come upon them 'out of the blue' while we know others - like our military or life-long patients - suffer IBS as a consequence of highly stressful situations or anxiety issues. One successful avenue of treatment along with others is the use of clinical hypnotherapy which was my way forward in addressing IBS. This method is only to be used after a diagnosis of IBS and of course, is not s substitute for medical care.

There has been successful clinical research studies into the efficacy of this method since 1984 as it addresses the brain-gut component of IBS. To date, it is one of the most effective ways to treat this condition, and most patients who have tried it have found a good reduction or even elimination of their IBS and related symptoms. For most of these patients, trying this method is usually a 'last resort' after all else has failed. This was the case for me - having had IBS since 1983, taking every medication, supplement, diet, etc available, many trips to medical clinics and tests, this was the only method that was able to help address the core of my IBS symptoms. The brain-gut connection is a phyisical problem - not mental - and can be measured. Clinical hypnotherapy changes the neural pathways from the brain to the gut to 'rewire' signals that bring on IBS symptoms of pain, cramping, diarrhea or constipation, as well as breaking the worry/anxiety cycle so prevalent in IBS sufferers. It took me years to find this method. For those who may be interested, I am happy to help. I speak with many IBS patients who are suffering and since I have been there too, I know what this journey entails. You can take a peek at www.healthyaudio.com for information and an explanation of how this method may be helpful. You can also call 877-898-2539 if you are suffering, have questions, or need free support. Thank you for letting me share! :)

March 22, 2012 - 12:43pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.