The Link Between Anxiety & IBS

Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or IBS, is a gastrointestinal condition often characterized by stomach cramps and pain, bloating, excessive gas, frequent constipation, and diarrhea.  Unfortunately, IBS often accompanies anxiety and there are new studies that are tentatively linking IBS and other intestinal issues to anxiety and other mental health issues.  IBS has no concrete cause, or at least no cause that is uniform across all people who suffer from IBS.  Instead those with IBS suffer from a variety of other problems that seem to lead or contribute to IBS.  Some experts are pointing to nervous disorders and mental health issues, such as anxiety.  Many experts suspect that IBS is a result of certain individual’s colons being unable to cope with stress or certain foods.  Luckily IBS is not usually permanently damaging, and usually only results in general un-comfortability and pain.

The Colon is very heavily linked to the nervous system, and many people who suffer from IBS also suffer from mental ailments such as anxiety and depression. When the colon, with its link to the nervous system, experiences stress, it can react negatively, causing an IBS flare up.  There is also emerging evidence that indicates that stress on one’s immune system can also lead to periodic IBS flare ups.  IBS and Anxiety appear to be linked, however it is unclear if one causes the other.  People with anxiety may experience Irritable Bowel Syndrome when having an anxiety or panic attack, or they may not.  And having a bout of IBS may lead to an anxiety or panic attack, especially for those with no access to an immediate restroom facility.

Increased Risk For Flare Ups

Many people who suffer from IBS and Anxiety may not recognize the connection and attempt to treat or manage them separately.  However, your doctor may recommend treatment for one or both of these issues in an effort to help you manage your symptoms.  Anxiety and IBS have not cure, they are issues that must be managed, and with the proper knowledge you can keep these two issues in check.  Some doctors have found that anti-depressants intended to help manage anxiety and depression have also helped manage IBS symptoms, which seems to indicate that those individual’s IBS was brought on by stress imbalances.  Others have found that dietary changes or fiber supplements have reduced their IBS symptoms and consequently helped them manage their stress and anxiety levels. 

If you suffer from IBS you should speak to your doctor about a treatment and management plan that would be right for you.  With patience and determination, you can get control of your Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Anxiety and get back on track.