The link between
Stress and IBS

Article by Sian

Stress and IBS
The word stress seems to be almost overused these days. We probably become so accustomed to people saying, they are 'stressed ' and say it ourselves so often that it loses any meaning.

However, stress contributes to many ailments and certainly, in most cases, it is a big factor in Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

So, what causes stress?
We live, it is said, in a stressful world. People can become 'stressed out' about anything which occupies their mind. If we think about something and worry about it, we reach a state of stress, and this can often become a permanent state of mind. It can be one thing or many.

We may be concerned about our jobs, for instance; perhaps the role itself puts a great deal of pressure on us, we may work long hours, the workload might be heavy, we may worry about losing our job, or the people we work with, perhaps we have managers who make life difficult for us, or colleagues who we do not get on with.

We can perpetually worry about our relationships, our health, paying the bills.

Once we start worrying, it is like sliding down a greased slope, we can find so many things to worry about we are spoiled for choice. This produces stress, and sometimes we are so used to worrying about something we may not even be aware of it.

The world itself is stressful. Even in the past twenty years I have noticed that everything seems to be more urgent, we must have this, we need that to be content, or to fit in with others.

Sometimes it feels as if we seek to comfort ourselves by * things * clothes, gadgets, cars, because for a while, having obtained it, we will feel happier, and not so stressed.

Unfortunately it never lasts, since the inner worry and stress are still there once the gloss of the new item has tarnished. Many things cost a great deal and most of those things ( until the credit crunch ) we could buy on credit. And then, bingo! the credit card bill arrives, and with the realization that we have overspent and must either pay off a great deal, or the minimum and perhaps use another credit card.

And so we seem almost to accept that we have to live with stress. But worry is not good for the body or the mind. Some people can thrive under stress, but it has to be the right kind of stress, a challenge, something a person knows they can do and must push themselves to accomplish. Stress over constant bills, partners, children, health or employment is not * good * stress.

How does stress cause, or worsen IBS?
I am sure that many people found that long before they were diagnosed with irritable Bowel Syndrome, that worry, a shock, or a period of bad nerves might upset their stomach, or give them ' butterflies in their stomach '.

It is not uncommon for people who are afraid to have diarrhea. It was a fact that many young soldiers in their first battle would vomit, or have diarrhea or both, if they survived. It is therefore not surprising that some-one who is under long-term stress is often an IBS sufferer.

Often doctors will recommend anti-depressants or, sometimes, tranquilizers to some-one with the condition. Stress and IBS are almost self perpetuating, since often before we are diagnosed we worry about the symptoms, and after we worry about the embarrassment the syndrome can cause; needing to use a bathroom, flatulence , etc.

I began to realize that after an upset or shock, I could count down the time to when an attack of IBS would hit me, and the worse the upset, the worse the attack would be, so I understand doctors looking at the problem from the stress/anxiety angle and not always the IBS itself.

There are many ways to try and alleviate stress and worry, some using traditional medication and others which use the holistic approach. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy seems to produce very good results and perhaps we will see Stress and IBS being managed in this way more in the future.

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