Stress, Anxiety, Depression and IBS

More than 50 percent of people who suffer from IBS also experience anxiety. Studies show that stress, anxiety, depression, and IBS are related and often happen together. The stress and anxiety you feel can worsen your IBS symptoms because the gut is controlled by the nervous system, which responds to stress. This creates a cycle wherein IBS symptoms then increase your stress, anxiety and depression. Getting help with your stress, anxiety and depression can also help you find relief from your IBS symptoms.

Anti-Stress Strategies:

Have a plan in place to combat stress when it occurs. It's important to have a plan ready at any time.

Stress triggers will tend to put you in a fight-or-flight state which shuts down your digestive system and other non-essential systems, and can reduce your cognitive ability to make complex conclusions and decisions in favor of more simplistic primal responses (attacking, hiding, running, etc.).  

Ask yourself some questions to put your stress and anxiety into a more realistic perspective, and change your thinking about your situation.

The goal when you encounter these stress triggers is to prevent yourself from reaching the fight or flight mode and maintain a more balanced state of mind so that you can reasonably assess and diffuse the situation. 

Stress-Reducing activities:

Because it is important to keep yourself out of that fight-or-flight state, managing your stress levels can be very beneficial to preventing those episodes.  Here are some of the most common and most helpful techniques you can apply:

  • Consistent Daily Routine - implementing and maintaining a consistent, predictable routine can ease your brain into anticipating daily functions, and applying appropriate responses.  This includes eating at the same times every day, getting an appropriate amount of sleep, going to bed and waking at the same times each day, etc.

  • Belly Breathing - there are many apps and videos that can define and instruct patients on belly breathing - a relaxing and refreshing action designed to oxygenate your brain and calm your system.

  • Yoga & Meditation - while these techniques are often recommended for a wide variety of issues, allowing your brain to let go of outside distractions and focus on your body can go a long way toward re-training it to interpret your body’s signals properly.  Just as important is the value that yoga and meditation can provide towards reducing general stress in your life, thereby reducing situations that can trigger IBS episodes.