If you, like many, have ever been sent running to the bathroom right before a stressful meeting, felt sick to the stomach before a hot date, or noticed your tummy churning prior to boarding a long flight, you may be all too familiar with the not-so-fun connection between stress and your stomach. And while this can happen to anyone, it seems to hit a little harder for those with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (aka IBS). Let’s dive into why that is and what might be happening behind the scenes.
What’s the Link Between IBS and Stress?
With such a strong connection, you may be wondering if IBS is caused by stress. And while most people experience increased or more frequent symptoms during periods of high stress, IBS is not caused by stress; but they are definitely linked.
According to the World Journal of Gastroenterology, having IBS can throw off the delicate balance between your brain and your gut. When stress and anxiety are piled on to the problem, this can go one of two ways. In some, it triggers an overactivity in the gut, which causes bloating, diarrhea, and stomach-churning. In others, it sends under-active brain signals which slow down the brain and cause constipation, gas, and abdominal discomfort.
How Stress Can Worsen IBS
When your body is stressed or anxious, it can release all sorts of hormones, including cortisol and corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF). CRF activates the immune system, which is normally a good thing, but in this case can cause a strong response to foods that would typically sit well in the body.
According to Healthline, stress and anxiety can have the following effects on IBS:
- It reduces intestinal blood flow
- Increases intestinal permeability
- Activates your immune system
- Triggers inflammation in your immune system
Especially if it’s chronic and long-term, stress can throw your body off balance and make it harder to return to a healthy state unless the underlying mental health issues are managed.
How to Deal with “IBS Anxiety”
Stress and IBS can sometimes feel like a vicious cycle. For individuals with Irritable Bowel Syndrome, additional considerations – like always being near a bathroom, being mindful of what to eat/what to avoid, and concern over what may trigger symptoms – can add extra worry, stress, and anxiety to their plate. In fact, if you’re like 80% of IBS sufferers, you’ve likely missed out on one or more of life’s major events due to your condition and its uncanny way of popping up at the exact moment that you asked it not to.
Luckily, there are many short and long-term tips, tricks, and mechanisms that can help those with IBS manage stress.
Below are six articles designed to help get you started:
- 5 Unique Ways to Reduce Stress
- Can Yoga Help with Digestion and Gut Health?
- How to Calm a Nervous Stomach
- From FOMO to FODMAP: Stop Missing Out Because of IBS
- How Mindfulness Can Help with IBS Management
- 7 Low FODMAP Meal Prep Tips For Stress-Free Eating
For easy eats that can help manage stress-related (and non-stress-related) IBS, shop Fody’s gut-friendly foods today.