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

By HERWriter
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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.”

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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.