If you have IBS, you probably already know that the condition can cause tons of stress. But did you know that stress could also be a root cause of the syndrome itself? Let’s take a look at how stress and hormones fit into the big picture of IBS.

 

What Worsens Your IBS?

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Hormonal imbalance

Lots of women notice that their IBS symptoms are worst just before their periods. Why this occurs is not clear, but it may have to do with the pattern of hormonal fluctuation in the second half of the cycle: estrogen is lower for several days, whereas progesterone is relatively high at the end of the cycle, then drops off suddenly just before menses. Progesterone in general slows gut motility, and lower-than-normal estrogen levels have been identified in women with IBS. It’s possible that when the ratio between these two sex hormones is off, sluggish bowels could in turn worsen pelvic congestion, cramping, and abdominal distention.

Stress and anxiety

As anyone with IBS knows, stress and anxiety can affect the body in many ways. When we’re stressed, changes occur in the autonomic nervous system — the system of nerves that make up the sympathetic (governs our “fight or flight” responses) and parasympathetic (regulates the “rest and digest” responses) nervous systems. translator directory . In patients with irritable bowel syndrome, input from the brain sends a message to decrease digestion and increase motility of the colon, resulting in the rapid passage of incompletely digested stool.

But there are many other disease processes that can lead to IBS-like symptoms, and we practitioners and our patients have to be mindful about checking that nothing more serious is at the core of an irritated bowel. For example, endometriosis, ovarian and colon cancer, and inflammatory bowel disease can often cause or exacerbate bloating and other symptoms that resemble IBS, which can lead to a misdiagnosis. To be safe, these more serious disorders should always be ruled out by your healthcare practitioner before settling on a diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome.

– via www.womentowomen.com

The more you understand about how stress impacts your IBS, the better you can manage your symptoms. Check out just a few ways to manage stress below!

Treatment For IBS

While there is no cure for IBS, treatments can manage the symptoms and discomfort. The National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse estimates that up to 70 percent of people with IBS are not receiving treatment.

Of those who do seek treatment, research has found that 50 to 90 percent have a psychiatric disorder such as an anxiety disorder or depression.

Your doctor may recommend one or a combination of the following treatments:

  • Fiber supplements or laxatives to decrease constipation.
  • Antispasmodic medication to control muscle spasms in the colon and reduce abdominal pain.
  • Antidepressants to help minimize symptoms of anxiety and depression.
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy to learn how to cope with anxiety and depression. The British Society of Gastroenterology recommends psychological therapy as the first-line treatment for IBS when the patient has a history of anxiety, panic attacks, or depression. The American College of Gastroenterology also recommends therapy and says it can reduce both anxiety and IBS symptoms in some patients.
  • Relaxation techniques to reduce stress.
  • Diet changes. For some, that may mean avoiding dairy products or carbonated beverages, which can aggravate symptoms. For others, that may mean increasing dietary fiber, which can relieve constipation, or eating smaller meals more often instead of two or three large meals, which can cause cramping.

– via www.adaa.org

Have you ever noticed a link between your stress and your IBS? Does knowing how they work together give you any ideas on how you could manage or prevent your symptoms?