That heavy feeling in your belly, the stinky gas, the inconsistent bowel movements, the pain, the nausea.
Sounds familiar? You may have irritable bowel syndrome.
So why is your bowel so upset? One word: Stress.
Irritable bowel syndrome, otherwise known as IBS, is a common digestive condition that is characterized by stomach pain, cramping, and variable changes in bowel movements (typically from diarrhea to constipation then back to diarrhea). People who suffer from IBS report gassiness, bloating, pain and nausea.
Irritable bowel syndrome has been called spastic bowel or spastic colon, nervous colon, mucous colitis, and functional bowel disorder. IBS does not cause permanent harm to the intestines and is not known to lead to serious diseases such as cancer.
IBS occurs more common in women (by two to one)1 and affects close to twenty percent of the world’s population, accounting for the second most common reason to miss work days (cold and flu are first)2. Irritable Bowel Syndrome is sometimes confused with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), which is another condition altogether. Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a difficult condition to suffer, but not one without hope. There is much we have learned about the disease and how to help people who have the disease cope better. For many people, eating a proper diet lessens IBS symptoms.
Mental and Emotional
Years ago we used to think of the brain and the body as separate. Many recent studies have shown how closely connected the gut is to the brain. The brain and the gut, for example, use many of the same neurotransmitters (chemical messengers) and are closely linked through the nervous system. Researchers are starting to call this brain and digestive system connection the brain-gut axis and it appears that this axis has a strong role to play in IBS. 3
The hypothalamic-pituitary-HPA axis (HPA axis) and its principle hormone cortisol are known to play a key role in this brain-gut connection. It has been shown, for example, that psychological distress (which increases cortisol demands and tires the HPA glands) will increase the symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome,4 as will exposure to an early life stress.5 IBS is likewise increased during other stressful conditions for the body such as during menstruation.6
The mind-body connection cannot be understated or shrugged off as an ﾓalternativeﾔ perspective. It is the very dynamic that determines your health and longevity. When under chronic stress, the HPA falls apart and then the real problems start.
Cut to the chase: Know Chronic Stress.
- Alcohol: Especially in excess.
- Caffeine: Found in coffee, tea, colas, and many other drinks.
- Dairy produ