Irritable Bowel Syndrome, also called IBS, is characterized by abdominal pain, cramping, bloating, gas, constipation, and diarrhea. Approximately one in five American adults have IBS. Women are more likely to experience symptoms, which usually begin in their late teens or early on in adulthood.
There is no known specific cause, but some experts suggest people who suffer from IBS have a colon that is more sensitive and reactive to stress and certain foods. Although IBS can be painful and uncomfortable, it does not permanently damage the intestines, nor does it cause other gastrointestinal diseases.
People with IBS frequently suffer from stress, anxiety and depression, which can worsen symptoms. That’s because the colon is, in part, controlled by the nervous system, which responds to stress. Evidence also shows that the immune system, in response to stress, plays a role. IBS itself can also make you feel more anxious and depressed.
People suffering from stress and anxiety tend to worry greatly about issues such as health, money, or careers, according to the Anxiety Disorders Association of America. Other symptoms include stomach upset, trembling, muscle aches, insomnia, dizziness, and irritability. Generally, but not always, the more stressors we experience, the more stressed we feel. The way you respond to a challenge may also be a type of stress. Part of your response to a challenge is physiological and affects your physical state.
People feel the effects of stress and anxiety in many ways.
One common symptom is stomachaches. Anxiety can worsen symptoms of abdominal cramps and pain, and make you literally feel sick to your stomach, and bring on the symptoms associates with IBS.
So what can be done?
While there is no cure for IBS, there are treatments to manage symptoms and help ease discomfort. The National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse estimates that up to 70 percent of people with IBS are not getting treatment.
Of those who do seek treatment, research has found that 50 to 90 percent have a psychiatric disorder such as an anxiety disorder or depression.
If you are experiencing the symptoms of IBS it is important to realize that feeling this way is not normal and that you should seek the advice of a doctor. With proper treatment, IBS sufferers can greatly reduce the symptoms associated with their condition. Your doctor may recommend one or a combination of the following treatments:
- Fiber supplements or laxatives to decrease constipation.
- Antispasmodic medication to control muscle spasms in the colon and reduce abdominal pain.
- Antidepressants to help minimize symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression.
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy to learn how to cope with anxiety and stress. The American College of Gastroenterology recommends therapy and says it can reduce both anxiety and IBS symptoms in patients.
- Relaxation techniques to reduce stress.
- Diet changes
For some, diet changes may mean avoiding dairy products or carbonated beverages, which can aggravate symptoms. For others, that may mean increasing dietary fiber, which can relieve constipation, or eating smaller meals more often instead of two or three large meals, which can cause cramping.
To understand more about the connection between IBS and Stress, or if you are experiencing or think you are may be having symptoms of IBS, contact Intercoastal Medical Group at (914) 921-6618 or request an appointment online.