By Claire The Millennial Londoner
Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. This blog is purely for informational purposes and compiled from personal experience and reputable sources. If you require any health advice please speak to a medical specialist. This blog also contains affiliate links that allow me to earn a commission at no extra cost to you.
You might have heard people say they have “butterflies” when they’re nervous but have you ever wondered why? I didn’t so for the longest time I would just not eat when I felt nervous but never questioned why. I just accepted that's what I had to do when I felt anxious or apprehensive.
Scientists are still trying to understand the connection between the brain and the gut but it’s clear that anxiety can disrupt your digestive system.
Now before I continue I must give a heads up that this is purely from personal experience I’m not a doctor nor am I insinuating that anyone with anxiety has IBS.
I just wanna make that clear before I continue because not everyone with anxiety has IBS, but for those of us super lucky individuals with IBS, this blog post is for you.
At the end of this post I reveal my IBS superpower that you MUST try if you have IBS, it’s been a LIFESAVER to me and reduced the intensity of my IBS attacks.
Check that out at the end
Firstly what is IBS? What does it stand for?
IBS or Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a disorder within the digestive tract also known as a “leaky gut”. It is a disorder that causes frequent disruption within your digestive tract causing changes in your bowel movements. You can also experience abdominal pain, nausea, cramping etc on a frequent basis.
To give a more factual answer this is the official definition from google:
Irritable bowel syndrome is a common condition affecting the digestive system. Symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome include stomach cramps, bloating, diarrhoea and constipation. These may come and go over time. Making changes to your diet and lifestyle, like avoiding things that trigger your symptoms, can help ease irritable bowel syndrome.
What are the symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome?
There are a few types of IBS so the symptoms will vary depending on which type you have.
The types of IBS are;
Mixed (Combination Of The Two)
IBS Type C Symptoms
IBS Type D Symptoms
Sudden Urge To Use The Loo
Hard Or Lumpy Stools
Changes In Bowel Movement
The symptoms of IBS Type M are a combination of all these wonderfully pleasant symptoms all in one (excuse the sarcasm).
What Is The Connection Between Anxiety And IBS
Having an anxiety disorder can be a catalyst for Irritable Bowel Syndrome as your digestive tract is slowed down during the fight, flight or freeze response. Anxiety causes your sympathetic nervous system to fire up making your bodily functions almost redundant during a panic attack.
It can pause your saliva glands from producing saliva that can make your mouth feel dry, you might find yourself needing to use the bathroom more or less frequently depending on what type of IBS you suffer from.
When you constantly have panic attacks or have an anxiety disorder your body isn't able to settle back to a homeostasis state causing long term stomach issues such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
Fun Fact: Anxiety-related IBS is significantly higher for those of us that have both Panic Disorder and Agoraphobia.
What Are IBS Attacks?
A year ago I would be asking the same question because I had no idea what it was either. Now from personal experience I can answer this, it’s basically where your IBS symptoms worsen suddenly (usually there is a trigger). It causes sudden bowel movements usually which can be really unpleasant and come out of nowhere. IBS attacks can disrupt your day, leaving you feeling unwell, exhausted and possibly anxious about the symptoms you're experiencing (at least for me).
What Triggers An IBS Attack?
Common triggers are stress and food, certain foods have high fructans which can be hard to digest especially for someone with a leaky gut.
Some dieticians say gluten can trigger it whilst others say it has no impact so it’s important to speak to a doctor before eliminating it from your diet.
Is There A Cure For IBS?
The short answer is nope.
That doesn’t mean we’re going to feel this way forever. You’ll have to work on your diet to manage the symptoms. This is why you have to see what agrees and disagrees with your stomach so you can make it more tolerable for you to live with.
How Do I Manage IBS?
To manage IBS there are a few things you can do;
I think there are more options but these are the main ones.
Fodmap diets are a great form of treatment for IBS because sufferers tend to have sensitivities to certain carbs like fructans, fructose and lactose.
It’s the sensitivities to certain foods that cause carnage in your digestive system so doing a low fodmap diet might improve your symptoms (it did for me so I’d highly recommend trying it).
You MUST speak to a doctor before altering your diet in case you have other conditions or prevent yourself from getting all the nutrients your body needs.
Now this one is a bit difficult if you have an anxiety disorder because IBS can cause your anxiety to spike and your anxiety can cause the IBS to spike. It’s a double-edged sword so the key to getting it under control is focusing on your anxiety.
Anxiety can cause problems in most areas of your life (depending on the severity of course) so start with working on your anxiety. If your IBS symptoms are bad you should speak to your GP and they can prescribe you something for it.
Here’s some ideas that you can do to reduce stress:
Exercise - sports, walking, jogging/running
Get Creative - do some colouring, DIY projects, painting, drawing
Watch funny movies/shows - laughter is the best medicine
Spend time with pets
Hang out with loved ones
Have a bubble bath
I personally haven’t tried this but it seems to be a good treatment method for IBS. It involves delving into your consciousness via various relaxation techniques, redirecting your attention into a trance like state.
Around 70% of people with IBS noticed improvements in their symptoms after hypnotherapy so it might be worth a shot if your IBS is impeding your daily life.
You can delve into your past that may have triggered your anxiety and ultimately your IBS.
It’s crazy to think Anxiety and IBS are linked and can cause all this hassle. Not only do you have to deal with the symptoms of anxiety but over time it can take a toll on your digestive system too.
When our bodies go into the fight or flight response our digestion is essentially put on hold. So it can disrupt our body's ability to naturally digest causing us to have stomach problems over time.
This leads me to my next point...
CBT or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (I like to say it just to sound smart haha) is another way you can improve your IBS. I personally didn’t use CBT for my IBS as I didn’t have it bad back then but I would definitely recommend CBT for anyone looking to improve their anxiety, IBS or general mental health.
So many people neglect their mental health which is crazy to me but even if you decide just to go for your IBS you might find it beneficial.
Now this one is gonna depend on your type of IBS and what your doctor suggests is the best for you but fibre supplements can really help with IBS.
The reason I say you need to check with your doctor is that like I said earlier there are different types of IBS, so if you have IBS Type D you shouldn’t take fibre that speeds things up likewise you shouldn’t take supplements that slow down your digestion if you have IBS Type C.
You need to stay regular without aggravating your IBS symptoms further.
Finally my superpower…
I don’t want this to sound like a sales pitch but I genuinely LOVE this product and it’s helped me so much so I can’t recommend it enough,
THIS product has been a lifesaver and the beauty of it is you can buy it over the counter. You don’t need prescriptions and anyone can take them.
But it basically lines your stomach and removes pathogens and all other nasty stuff that can mess up your stomach.
It’s great for;
Tell me this doesn’t sound amazing, it helps almost every symptom associated with IBS.
The only downside to it is the texture… it doesn’t really taste of anything but the texture is like a chalky powder. I usually have water on hand to wash it down but other than that I LOVE it.
I personally prefer the sachets because you can take them anywhere with you and don't have to measure the amount you're taking.
What You Can Take From This Post
Scientists are still unsure of the exact cause of IBS but there is a link between Anxiety and IBS
Panic Disorder can worsen IBS
People with Agoraphobia are more likely to have IBS
IBS has no cure
You should go to your doctor if you have symptoms of IBS
You can try the Fodmap diet, reducing stress, hypnotherapy, CBT and fibre supplements
Try Silicol Gel and see if it eases the flare-ups