Understanding stress & anxiety related IBS

IBS or Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a relatively common functional disorder of the gut and bowels that may cause the sufferer pain, discomfort, bloating, wind, diarrhoea, embarrassment and anxiety.

What makes it difficult for the person experiencing IBS to come to terms with is, there is no test that can confirm IBS and all aspects of the gut look normal (even when examined under a microscope). There is no official cure! In addition, most scientists are unsure of it’s cause, although, this condition often presents itself after trauma or periods of continued stress, such as, divorce, illness, unemployment, exam stress, bereavement & anxiety depression.

Therefore the best IBS treatment focuses on how you can handle stress, anxiety and how you interface with yourself and the world (not what you eat!)

Women are twice as likely to experience IBS (sometimes referred to as Irritable Colon, Spastic Colon and Mucous Colitis) than men, and may find that the symptoms make them feel anxious about being too far from a toilet and this may form new anxieties.

The content of this page assumes you have been diagnosed with IBS by your Doctor, if not, please ensure you seek appropriate medical clarification. On a lighter note, whilst IBS is a huge nuisance and can be very uncomfortable, it is not life threatening and rarely develops into anything more sinister.

Symptoms of IBS

There range of IBS symptoms that may be experienced is very diverse, listed here are some of the more common symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome:

  • Bloating of the stomach and excessive wind
  • Constipation or diarrhoea, or alternating episodes of both
  • Feelings of anxiety
  • Feeling like you can’t fully empty your bowel
  • Feelings of urgency of needing to go to the toilet
  • Abdominal pain
  • Noisy rumbling stomach
  • Feeling nauseous
  • Backache
  • Tense shoulders
  • Headaches
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Self consciousness
  • Tiredness

This common gut condition affects about 10% of the population at one time or another and is most common across ages 25 – 50.

IBS treatment, advice & help

Much of the stomach, bowel and colon is controlled by our unconscious nervous system. Signals are sent back and forth between the brain and the gut as it controls factors such as the speed with which food is pushed through our intestines.

This Autonomic Nervous System (comprised of the Sympathetic and the Parasympathetic Nervous systems) controls most of our internal organs and processes such as digestion and breathing.

It is also responsible for generating our moods and feelings by agitating our muscles and organs (including the skin) by the release of chemicals. That is why when we feel emotions we say things like “I felt it in the pit of my stomach. I was shaking with rage. It took my breath away. My heart was racing.” Etc.

This is the very same unconscious system that fires off during times of stress and anxiety and becomes over active manifesting in us experiencing anxious feelings. Metaphorically speaking, you might say“worrying ourselves sick.” During prolonged periods of stress or after trauma this nervous system becomes uncalibrated and tired, internally it pushes us this way and that, agitating our digestive system and generating these unwanted symptoms.

Stress, worry, fear, anxiety and IBS

So, given that 95% of IBS sufferers are also experiencing some form or stress and anxiety – it stands to reason that people who have less anxiety, depression and stress will have less IBS!

Therefore a calmer you = much less IBS

We take  a journey of self awareness, where you can understand biologically and mentally how stress and anxiety slowly accumulate and then begin to take hold of our lives. We explore who you are, what you want from life and delve into understanding the conscious (and more importantly) unconscious strategies you use to manage thoughts, feelings, concerns and worries.

By understanding how your mind and your body are conspiring to overwhelm you, and then applying new effective strategies, you will have more choices in the way you think, the way you act, the way you talk to yourself – and ultimately in how you feel.

As you discover who you really are and learn how to not take things personally, stress begins to lift, fear begins to lift and you realise that many of your self beliefs about what you can’t do are totally out of date. ‘Calmness and Choice’ become the new mantra.

Other benefits of reviewing the way you handle the stresses of life are that you will be able to sleep more soundly and break free from the 3P’s that many people who feel anxious experience.

Personal – They tend to take things that other people say very personally (often totally inappropriately)

Pervasive – Negative doubts from one experience i.e. a failed relationship become pervasive and spread across thoughts about all aspects of life. “Because my relationship failed I must be useless, therefore I will probably lose my job too.”

Permanent – They tend to take past negative feelings and project them forward. “Because I don’t have a good job – I’ll never have a good job.”

I hope you can see that the way out of IBS is through self respect, confidence, having a vision, having goals and letting go of old out of date self limiting beliefs and ineffective emotional strategies. This is what I can help you to achieve. It’s not easy, but it is eye opening and life changing, and if even the thought of this is making you nervous then I would suggest it is time to face your fears, as this is the best form of IBS treatment.

Reduce IBS Top Tips

  • Light exercise helps to burn of the excess adrenalin that agitates your unconscious nervous system
  • Face the things that you know you need to address in your life
  • Learn what anxiety is and new effective strategies to stop it before it gets you
  • Speak to a nutritionist about an appropriate diet
  • Stop worrying about everything
  • Stop trying to control things that are outside of your control

Have a look around these pages where I discuss stress and anxiety because IBS is always associated with these conditions and if you are interested I can help to to change the way you think, which changes the way you feel, which removes IBS and a whole load of other anxiety based symptoms too.

Anxiety, OCD & Depression

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