Can Stress Cause IBS to Flare Up?

Medically Reviewed by Onikepe Adegbola, MD PhD

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common disorder that affects the large intestine. It is characterized by abdominal pain, cramping, bloating, gas, diarrhea, and constipation. While the exact cause of IBS is unknown, it is believed to be related to a variety of factors, including stress. In this blog, we will explore the connection between stress and IBS, as well as how to manage stress in order to prevent IBS flare-ups.

The Gut-Brain Connection

The gut-brain connection is a two-way communication system between the brain and the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. The brain sends signals to the GI tract to control digestion and the GI tract sends signals to the brain to control emotions, such as stress. This connection is believed to play a role in IBS, as stress can trigger IBS symptoms.

How Does Stress Contribute to IBS?

Stress can contribute to IBS in a variety of ways. Stress can lead to changes in the gut microbiome, which is the population of bacteria that live in the GI tract. These changes can lead to inflammation, which can cause IBS symptoms. Stress can also cause changes in the brain-gut connection, which can lead to changes in the way the body processes food, leading to IBS symptoms.

Stress Management for IBS

Stress management is an important part of managing IBS. There are a variety of lifestyle factors that can help reduce stress and prevent IBS flare-ups. These include:

  • Exercising regularly
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Practicing relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing and meditation
  • Avoiding alcohol and caffeine

In addition, there are a variety of stress management techniques that can help reduce stress and prevent IBS flare-ups, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, hypnosis, and yoga.

How is IBS Treated in the Context of Anxiety and Stress?

IBS can be treated in the context of anxiety and stress by addressing both the physical and psychological aspects of the disorder. Treatment typically includes medications to reduce inflammation and relieve symptoms, as well as lifestyle changes to reduce stress and improve overall health. Additionally, psychotherapy can be used to address the psychological aspects of IBS, such as anxiety and stress.

How Can I Manage Stress to Prevent IBS Flare-Ups?

In order to prevent IBS flare-ups, it is important to manage stress. This can be done by implementing lifestyle changes, such as exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, and practicing relaxation techniques. Additionally, it is important to seek professional help if needed, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, hypnosis, or yoga.

When Should I Speak to a Doctor About Stress and IBS Symptoms?

If you are experiencing IBS symptoms that are related to stress, it is important to speak to your healthcare provider. Your provider can help you develop a plan to manage stress and reduce IBS symptoms. Additionally, your provider can recommend medications and lifestyle changes that can help reduce IBS symptoms.

Conclusion

Stress can contribute to IBS in a variety of ways, including changes in the gut microbiome and changes in the brain-gut connection. It is important to manage stress in order to prevent IBS flare-ups. This can be done by implementing lifestyle changes, such as exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, and practicing relaxation techniques. Additionally, it is important to speak to your healthcare provider if you are experiencing IBS symptoms that are related to stress.

Find out how to get IBS relief in just a few weeks with our virtual IBS programs.

Onikepe Adegbola MD PhD is a board-certified physician who founded casadesante.com, a digital gut health platform for gastrointestinal conditions such as IBS, IBD, SIBO and celiac disease.

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