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Stress and IBS

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Professor Lovat
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Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a common condition affecting the digestive system. Symptoms of IBS include stomach cramps, diarrhoea, constipation and bloating. These symptoms can be quite variable and affect some people more than others.

The exact cause of IBS is unknown and remains a bit of a mystery. To date, a number of potential causes have been suggested including: increased sensitivity of the gut, intolerance to certain foods, infections and genetics, though none of these have been proven to directly cause IBS.

Interestingly, there’s also a growing body of evidence to suggest that psychological factors, such as stress and anxiety, can play an important role in IBS. However, that’s not to say that IBS is a purely psychological problem, as the symptoms of the condition are very real.

Rather, it’s important to recognise that there is, in fact, a rather intricate relationship between your brain and your gut.

What is the Stress IBS Connection?

Even people who don’t suffer from IBS can experience a change in their bowel habits in the face of a stressful situation. This is because stress causes a number of chemical changes in the body, some of which can directly affect your digestive system.

Managing Stress

Whilst there’s no cure for IBS, the symptoms of the condition can often be managed through lifestyle and diet changes.

Managing your stress levels may also help to reduce your IBS symptoms and there are a number of easy ways you can take steps to tackle stress.

For example, one of the most important things you can do to help manage stress is to identify exactly what is causing you to feel stressed in the first place. A simple way to do this is to try making a stress diary, where you can record details of the stresses you are experiencing.

This will allow you to identify any common themes and patterns, thereby helping you to identify your stress triggers.

Regular exercise is also particularly beneficial for helping to relieve stress. This is because exercise stimulates the release of special kinds of brain chemicals, known as endorphins, which act to increase your sense of wellbeing.

Physical activity can also help to clear your thoughts, helping you to get in the right frame of mind to deal with stress effectively.

When it comes to stress, even something as simple as talking to someone, can be beneficial.  It’s also important to seek support from others, such as a friend or family member – after all, a problem shared is a problem halved.

There are also a number of relaxation techniques you can try, such as deep breathing exercises and meditation, which have been found to help relieve stress.

When it comes to stress management, different methods will work for different people and it can be worth trying out a variety of different stress management techniques. This’ll allow you to see which of these may be most beneficial in reducing not only your stress levels, but also your IBS symptoms too.

 Psychological Interventions

If you find you’re struggling to cope with stress, then there are also a number of psychological therapies available, including cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and psychotherapy, which can be beneficial.

In some instances, psychological interventions may also be recommended by your doctor, particularly if your IBS symptoms are still causing problems after a period of 12 months.

These therapies typically involve teaching you different techniques, designed to help you to control your condition. There’s some evidence to suggest that these therapies may be effective in helping some individuals with IBS.

Here at the London Gastroenterology Centre we’re experts when it comes to digestive health and our highly trained clinicians are renowned specialists in gastrointestinal diseases, including IBS treatment. As such, we’re able to offer a range of treatment for a variety of gastrointestinal diseases including acid reflux and IBS in London.

For further information, please don’t hesitate to contact us today, by giving us a call on 020 7183 7965 and a member of our knowledgeable team will be happy to help you with your enquires.

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