Can Stress Cause Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

Irritable bowel syndrome affects up to 20% of American adults. IBS is a condition whose symptoms vary from person to person, but most people experience the following:

  • Abdominal pain and cramping
  • Chronic constipation, diarrhea, or both
  • Bloating and gas

IBS is not 100% understood by medicine. There are no physical abnormalities or tests that can diagnose IBS; it is only diagnosed by its symptoms.

IBS and Stress

Stress probably does not cause IBS in a person who is otherwise healthy, i.e. a person will not develop IBS from being under a lot of stress. However, people with IBS often find that a stressful situation can cause a bout of IBS symptoms. This may be because the colon is partially controlled by the nervous system.

Minimizing Your Stress

If you have IBS that is triggered by stress, here are some useful stress-management techniques that can help you:

  • Eat a healthy diet
    • A poor diet will cause your body physical stress. Be sure to eat a healthy diet that provides enough fiber and vital nutrients. It will also help your IBS to avoid foods that irritate you.
    • Make sure your diet supports a healthy immune system.
  • Get some exercise
    • A regular exercise program has been shown to be an excellent stress reliever. It releases endorphins and boosts immunity.
  • Build your support system
    • A network of friends and family that a person can depend on during hard times is crucial to stress management.
  • Relax
    • Pick up a hobby or other means of relaxation to help you deal with stress.
  • Yoga
    • Many people find that yoga, tai chi, or meditation can help them relieve stress.
  • Positive thinking
    • Don't focus exclusively on your problems. Try to enjoy life and keep a positive outlook. People with a positive attitude report less stress than negative people.
  • Deep breathing exercises
    • Since being stressed out causes short, shallow breaths, you may find that deep, slow breaths can help relieve stress.
    • Deep breathing can have physiological effects that help calm your body.
  • Muscular relaxation
    • Tense and relax your muscles in groups, starting with your head and working downward. You may find that there were muscles you were keeping tensed without even noticing.
  • Visualization
    • Many people find that visualizing a peaceful scene helps them relax. Envision all the sensory details of your ideal peaceful place: sounds, smells, feelings, textures, etc.
  • Counseling
    • If you find that you are unable to manage stress on your own, you might consider seeing a counselor, social worker, or therapist.

Other Treatments

If reducing stress doesn't help you enough, there are other methods you can try. A change in diet may be recommended. There are also prescription drugs that may alleviate symptoms, but these drugs can have serious side effects and are not right for everyone. Digestrol is an all-natural herbal supplement that has helped many sufferers of IBS.


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