Can Stress Cause IBS?
Last year while I had IBS, stress made my symptoms much worse. In a stressful situation the severity of my symptoms increased – bloating seemed worse, diarrhoea could be explosive and with constipation, I got more constipated. Now, however, after completely beating irritable bowel syndrome, stress has little or no impact on me or my digestive system. I still get stressed out occasionally, but it doesn't have much affect on my body, unlike last year.
Stress can affect every organ in the body. The digestive system consists of more organs than any other system in the body. Therefore, it’s not surprising that stress can have such an impact on the digestive system. Heart attack/stoke victims are advised to avoid stress because of the effect it can have on their already stressed heart. Likewise, IBS sufferers should also avoid stress because of the impact it can have on their already stressed digestive system.
If you consider someone who has an headache, for example, how will they react when they are put under stress? They'll become more irritable and claim that their headache has got worse! So it should be expected that when IBS sufferers are under stress there symptoms seem to get worse. This does not mean stress causes irritable bowel syndrome, but simply IBS - a strained digestive system - is aggravated by stress.
Usually, stress has little or no impact on some one who is very healthy. However, stress can have a significant affect on someone who is sick or suffering from a disorder like irritable bowel syndrome. We all occasionally suffer from stress – it’s part of living! Even cavemen suffered from stress – imagine having to catch your food everyday! Many irritable bowel sufferers claim that they can experience symptoms even when relaxed and not stressed out. As one sufferer said, "The only stress in my life is IBS!".
I’m not aware of any doctor that believes stress can CAUSE irritable bowel syndrome. Stress usually has only mild and temporary effects or no effects at all. It certainly won’t cause recurrent bloating, diarrhoea/constipation, abdominal pains. Chronic stress is a different matter, but it's generally not factor in most IBS sufferers’ lives.
Another example is stomach ulcers. Until fairly recently, most stomach ulcers were blamed on stress - it's fairly common to do this, if a cause cannot be found the medical establishment blame it on stress. However, bacteria called H. pylori, was found to be a major cause of stomach ulcers. This lead to the medical establishment doing a U-turn and now they consider stress a lesser factor. In fact, many physicians consider unhealthy foods and unhealthy fluids more of a factor than stress!!!
To quote one doctor, "Although emotional stress is no longer thought to be a cause of ulcers, people with ulcers often report that emotional stress increases ulcer pain."
One last thought: it’s suggested that 15-20% of populations from civilized countries suffer from irritable bowel syndrome. What percentage of populations from civilized countries suffer from occasional symptoms of bloating, diarrhoea, constipation, stomach cramps and pains? To answer this look at the skyrocketing sales of laxatives, ant-diarrhoeals, anti-acids, and other drugs! An epidemic of digestive disorders may be just round the corner! And STRESS is not the main cause!
Hope this is useful.
Dave. ( <A HREF="http://www.ibs-tips.co.uk" TARGET=_blank>www.ibs-tips.co.uk</A> )