Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Is It In Your Head?
Although stress and anxiety are not believed to directly cause irritable bowel syndrome, studies indicate that stress and anxiety can and often do accompany IBS. The physical toll of IBS can certainly stress anyone out. According to UpToDate, while stress and anxiety probably do not cause IBS, stress and anxiety do affect digestion and can make IBS worse. So how can your symptoms improve if you’re caught in an IBS-stress cycle?
Stress Relief Techniques for IBS
According to WebMD, stress management has in fact been proven to reduce IBS symptoms. There are numerous stress management techniques you can try on your own.
Regular exercise can benefit just about anyone, but it can also help reduce feelings of stress and ensuing IBS symptoms. Yoga in particular emphasizes meditation and relaxation, and is often a good choice for a stress-reducing exercise routine. Getting enough sleep is also crucial to good health, and can reduce IBS symptoms.
Massage is a great way to help you relax. Visit a professional massage therapist, or ask a family member or friend to give you a massage. Aromatherapy can also help you relax. Look for essential oils with calming qualities, and use them in massage oils, baths, or scent diffusers.
Another simple but often overlooked stress-reducer is laughter. Humor lightens many situations and can help you relax during difficult times. So take some time to read a book that makes you smile, or watch a funny movie with some friends. Try to appreciate the humor in the things around you. Although you may not feel so great sometimes, appreciating the humorous and even just the positives in your life will help your burdens feel a little lighter.
Outside of typical self-help techniques, treatment for stress can also include behavioral therapy or psychotherapy from a trained mental health professional. Various professionals can also offer relaxation therapy, biofeedback, and hypnosis. Support groups for people with IBS can also help relieve stress, because others who have had similar experiences can offer advice and moral support. If you feel that you need professional help to escape from crushing feelings of stress, don’t hesitate to seek it. Your physician may be able to offer some suggestions.
What if Stress Management Doesn’t Help?
If stress relief techniques don’t improve your symptoms, you do have other options. Traditional medicine does not offer a cure for IBS, but a doctor can prescribe medication that may effectively manage your symptoms. Changes in diet, perhaps as directed by a doctor or dietitian, can also offer relief for IBS. Just adding extra fiber to your daily intake may improve your symptoms.
Alternative treatments are also successful for some people with IBS. One of the more promising ones is peppermint oil, which seems to be effective in calming the digestive tract for a number of IBS patients. Probiotics, which are now found in many popular yogurt products, are similar to the bacteria naturally found in the gut, so taking them can restore balance to your system and relieve IBS symptoms for some people. Look for products that say they contain “live cultures.” Acupuncture is another alternative treatment that may help.
There isn’t yet a known cure for IBS, but there are plenty of options available to help ease the symptoms. Remember that you don’t have to resign yourself to feeling sick. There are techniques and treatments available that may be right for you.