The ‘irritable’ in irritable bowel syndrome is in itself an indicator of the nature of this is disease. The mix of stomach discomfort and trouble with bowel movement is indeed a cause for anxiety and irritability. It is not clearly known how stress and anxiety relate to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or which one of them comes first - but reliable sources indicate that they all tend to co-exist. The bottom line is that it is well established that those with anxiety, or other stress related disorders are more likely to suffer from IBS.
The cause of IBS is still not clear, and as we all know prevention is better than cure. But since there is no cure for IBS, learning ways to manage stress will be helpful to those who suffer from this condition.
What the stats say
If diagnostic interviews were done, about 60% of IBS patients will be found suffering from one or more psychiatric disorders.
One of the most prominent mental ailments suffered by a good number of people with IBS is generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). And according to research, it is estimated that 60% of IBS patients suffering from a psychiatric illness are living with GAD. 20% of the remaining patients suffer from depression, while some stress-related disorders can be traced in the rest.
Anxiety and IBS
According to statistics, if you’re suffering from anxiety, you tend to worry about issues relating to money, careers, and health. Other symptoms may range from acute stomach upsets, unusual trembling, muscle twinge, acute insomnia, dizziness, and bad temper. In fact, it is a catch-22 situation as worrying about your condition may also end up in exacerbating it.
#1: How to cope with stress and anxiety
Various research have been conducted on how to deal with stress and anxiety, and all points toward effective stress management. Stress management is aimed at preventing and relieving IBS symptoms.
#2: Relax and do what you enjoy most
Whereas other people prefer the use of relaxation techniques like deep breathing and visualization to images of peaceful scenes, others are more into doing something enjoyable - like reading a nice book, socializing with people, or watching your favorite game - in managing IBS symptoms. There are also a number of retreats that offer people calm spaces to unwind and learn to relax with the help of professionals. Spending time at such places could help you on your path to recovery.
Your body needs exercise. Therefore, do them regularly, get enough sleep, and eat a good diet. This plays a vital part in reducing tension and stress. Deep breathing and yoga are known to reduce stress. In fact, it is said that learning to breathe from the diaphragm than the chest helps to relax the abdominal muscles, thus helping to regulate bowel activity. Another exercise that helps reduce stress is Jacobson’s relaxation technique or progressive relaxation. This involves progressively tensing and relaxing muscles from the feet up to the head, all the while concentrating on removing tension in each body part as you go.
Yoga classes have proven from time immemorial to reduce stress and improve vitality and vigor of the body. Everyone may not have access to yoga classes and, in such cases, there are several mobile phone apps and YouTube videos that could help you.
#4: Stress management techniques
You can also try other techniques to ease IBS symptoms. If that doesn’t work, talk to a doctor. Ensure that you get the right medication for all IBS-related symptoms like constipation and diarrhea. You can then figure out whether to see a mental counseling professional.
Experts believe that it is better to start and work with your physician, if you have been diagnosed with IBS. You should only jump to the next physician if the situation isn’t improving.
Another option that can be considered for managing stress would be meditation. Mobile phone apps specifically designed to help guide a person how to meditate can be used.
#5: Consider therapy and support for IBS
Research shows that about 2/3 of IBS sufferers tend to get better within a year or so after changing their diets and getting the right medication. The remaining third - those whose symptoms have become severe - are better off seeking psychological help. Minus this, they don’t usually experience any improvement.
#6: Behavioral therapy
Behavioral therapy is one of the best ways you can use to relieve IBS symptoms. This works best if utilized effectively. This technique covers a variety of therapies ranging from relaxation therapy, hypnosis, conventional psychotherapy, cognitive therapy, to biofeedback therapy. For those who have personal difficulties dealing with IBS, such treatments may be more helpful.
Cognitive Behavior Therapy is provided either on a one-to-one basis or in a small groups; and both of these treatment delivery approaches have been found effective. However, you should keep in mind that therapy has its limitations. For instance, some studies indicate that it doesn’t relieve constipation and recurring abdominal pain that is brought about by IBS. Also, improvement depends on the effort and time contributed by the individual.
#7: Attend self-help groups
Attending self-help groups for IBS sufferers can work pretty well in terms of awareness and counseling. Members of such groups have a first-hand experience of living with IBS. They will offer very meaningful support that can help you emotionally and psychologically. Remember, you aren’t alone in trying to handle IBS. Join a support group.
As mentioned earlier, there is no cure for IBS. These seven tips may not bring you instant relief from your symptoms, but they'll definitely yield results in the long run. Stress management can alleviate and help prevent IBS symptoms. Finally, do what relaxes and de-stresses YOU. Choose an option that suits you mentally, physically and, financially, and one that makes you feel happy and comfortable. After all, if stress is the cause for your IBS, then you don’t want the process of eliminating it to cause you even more stress.