Anxiety is one of the most significant IBS triggers
According to gastroenterologist Dr Serge Mayrand, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is caused by “a defect in the neuromodulation of the gut”. In other words, there’s a communications breakdown in the chemical and electrical signals travelling between your brain and digestive system. Although anxiety itself isn’t to blame for that defect, stress certainly doesn’t make life easier for those living with the condition.
Not only can anxiety trigger IBS symptoms, for some unfortunate sufferers, IBS can in turn trigger anxiety. People who experience bowel control anxiety (BCA) fear that their IBS will cause public incontinence. This heightens anxiety, which aggravates IBS symptoms in a vicious cycle that is difficult to break.
The fix: If your anxiety is mild, herbal remedies like lavender, and supplements like omega-3 or magnesium, may help relieve mild anxiety. For more severe cases, cognitive behavioural therapy has been shown to help alleviate symptoms of IBS.
Admit it, you probably drink too much coffee. According to a 2016 study published in The Journal for Nurse Practitioners, coffee is one of the 10 most commonly reported IBS triggers, thanks to its high caffeine content. Too much caffeine can cause indigestion and cramping, so three cups of coffee or tea a day should be your limit, according to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence.
The fix: If you’re sleepy during the day, there are plenty of other ways to stay awake and alert, including letting in sunlight, adopting a morning yoga routine… If you drink coffee and tea for the taste, switch to caffeine-free.
According to a 2016 study conducted by the University of Rijeka in Croatia, “depression is an important element in the vicious cycle experienced by IBS patients”. As with anxiety, IBS and depression feed each other: Depression can trigger symptoms of IBS, which can exacerbate the low moods that characterise depression.
The fix: Dedicated relaxation time and a mood-friendly diet can help alleviate symptoms of depression. Learn to spot the signs of depression in loved ones (including yourself)