The Importance of Managing Stress for People who Suffer from IBS

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This post was sponsored by IM HealthScience. 

            It’s crazy how much stress can negatively affect your body. This is even more true if you suffer from GI disorders such as IBS.

            According to a study done in 2017, both anxiety and depression not only increase the chances of developing IBS, but people with IBS are more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression. 1It’s a cycle of increasing psychological and physical symptoms that make day to day life extremely painful, embarrassing and difficult. 

There are ways you can reduce stress in your life and decrease the chances of your symptoms flaring up. Reducing stress factors in your life will not cure IBS, but it will certainly help you manage symptoms, and you will find yourself feeling better more often. 

Ways to reduce IBS related stress:

Managing stress for IBS - push for a firm diagnosis

Push for a firm diagnosis

Diagnosing IBS is difficult and can take some time for many patients. Your doctor will perform a physical examination and take a complete medical history that includes a careful review of your symptoms. If you’re experiencing extreme bloating, gas, abdominal pain and persistent diarrhea or constipation, see a doctor. Letting these symptoms go undiagnosed can lead to internal stresses. You’ll be left wondering what’s wrong with you, is it serious? Could your health be at risk? A firm diagnosis from a doctor won’t just help you to properly treat the disorder, but it will help put your mind at ease and prevent you from becoming overly stressed about the unknown. 

managing stress for IBS - be open about your condition

Be open about your condition

Many people with IBS tend to suffer in silence due to the embarrassing nature of their symptoms. The stress of worrying that people are judging you when you’re constantly running to the bathroom can worsen your symptoms. Tell friends, family and colleagues about your diagnosis, and educate them on the types of things you struggle with.

You’ll find that most people are understanding. It’s not your fault that you’re going through this, and they’ll likely support you and applaud you for being so brave and honest. This will reduce the stress of worrying that colleagues think you’re avoiding work or meetings when you need to take time off and keep you from worrying that your friends and family think less of you when you’re unable to attend planned events. 

managing stress for IBS exercise

Exercise

Exercise is proven to improve your overall health. It also helps a great deal with stress management and aids in proper digestion. We all know exercising is good for everyone, but if you have IBS, you have even more of a reason to stay active. 

Some tips for making exercise a more routine part of your day:

  • Carve out a half an hour at the same time every day to do an exercise of your choice. Even going for a walk or doing something light and relaxing like yoga will help.
  • Try not to exercise directly before or after eating.
  • Experiment with a couple different types of exercise to see what you like most. Maybe you hate lifting weights but get a rush when you go for a run? Maybe you’re a kick boxer and just never knew it? Or maybe you’re the undiscovered star of the Zumba class at your gym. Whatever it is, you’ll never know until you try!

Be open to different types of treatment

Of course, always talk to your doctor first before trying a new medication. However, by doing some research and finding out which over the counter remedies have recently undergone clinical trials and received positive results may not only help you manage your symptoms, but help you feel more in control and proactive about your diagnosis. 

For example, did you know that peppermint oil is great for helping relax the GI tract? The trick is making sure it gets to the lower bowel before it dissolves. CDHF has recently certified IBgard, which is a clinically tested capsule filled with tiny beads of peppermint oil, using a technology called SST (Site Specific Targeting). It has been proven to be effective and safe in relieving symptoms in patients with moderate to severe IBS-M and IBS-D. Patients tested saw relief in symptoms over the course of 24 hours and continued relief over a 3-4 week period. You can read the full clinical study here,or, if you’re interested in giving IBgard a try, you can also print out a coupon for your first purchase here.

Take time for yourself

Get a massage, spend some time in a hot tub, curl up with a good book in the bubble bath. Taking time to unwind and take your mind off of everyday stresses may feel selfish, or like a waste of time. But people with IBS need to consciously relax on a regular basis. It’s not a waste of time if you’re doing it for youre health. 

managing stress for IBS - use your benefits

If you have benefits, use them

Take the time to learn your benefits package and find out what resources you have available to you. For example, many company packages offer money towards things like massages or therapy. Speaking to a therapist can be especially useful. Things like cognitive behavioural therapy can teach you ways to consciously manage your stress and fend off anxiety proactively. 

managing stress for IBS practice mind-body connection activities

Practice Mind-Body Connection activities

Things like yoga, Thai chi, meditation and breathing exercises trigger what is called a ‘relaxation response.’ It’s a way of consciously focusing on slowing down and relaxing, which tricks your brain out of the fight or flight response it may be stuck in, due to the stresses of living with IBS. 

Unfortunately, we can’t avoid stress entirely. It’s a natural part of being human, and can actually be a very helpful response in emergency situations. However, excessive stress is not healthy for anyone, and is especially harmful for people with IBS. Try a couple of the above suggestions and see what one works for you! Be diligent about stress relief and don’t give up!

Resources

  1. Jones MP, Tack J, Van Oudenhove L, et al. Mood and Anxiety Disorders Precede Development of Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders in Patients but Not in the Population. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2017;15(7):1014-20 e4.
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