Irritable Bowel Syndrome Treatment: The Connection Between Stress and IBS
Stress plays a role in many illnesses, including various gut disorders. Consequently, stress reduction can aid in irritable bowel syndrome treatment. At first glance, it’s difficult to explain the influence of stress, a primarily mental condition, on gastrointestinal disorders like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). However, many people claim to suffer from a “nervous stomach”. And who hasn’t experienced that feeling of butterflies in the same region before attending an interview or awaiting exam results?
Ancient Greek physicians first observed a link between digestion and our emotions. However, it was only during the 18th century that a systematic search for a mechanism behind this apparent link began. Subsequent studies first suggested the gut influenced the mind, while later research suggested the reverse. Today we know both assertions are correct and result from a two-way communication system called the gut-brain axis.
How to Reduce Stress as Part of Your Irritable Bowel Syndrome Treatment Plan
Moving home, a lost loved one, divorce and unemployment are among the most stressful events we experience. Any of these can trigger prolonged depression that frequently affects one’s physical health due to this gut-brain connection, manifesting as conditions like IBS and Crohn’s disease. Stress reduction can often prove as, or even more, effective than medication in treating these disorders. Here are two relaxation strategies to implement in your daily life:
- Watch What You Eat
Many foods provoke stress and anxiety by increasing the secretion of cortisol, a hormone linked to obesity, heart disease, depression and type 2 diabetes. These include alcohol, sugary drinks and frozen or highly processed foods like chips, burgers and cookies. Ironically, these are the same foods we crave when feeling stressed.
By contrast, omega-3-rich foods like salmon and sardines, nuts, seeds, avocado, and vegetables like asparagus, sweet potatoes, and spinach have the opposite effect. So do fruits containing antioxidants, like strawberries, apricots and papaya. Lean chicken, turkey, eggs and fish can provide all the protein you need. Prebiotic and probiotic foods like high-fibre grains and fermented foods like sauerkraut, aged cheese, and kefir are also helpful. Consider consulting a dietician to find a tailored meal plan to treat your IBS symptoms.
- Other Lifestyle Adjustments
Many things we do or don’t do can contribute to stress. If you have concerns about the progress of your irritable bowel syndrome treatment, consider the following:
- Get More Exercise: There is no need to overexert yourself with hours of sweating at the gym. A regular brisk walk, for instance, is a great way to reduce stress. Look for a scenic route to enjoy the additional benefits of the relaxing surroundings.
- Get More Quality Sleep: Sleep has a range of known benefits to our mental and physical well-being and it has therapeutic properties that can relieve the tensions of a tough day in the workplace or other worries. However, TVs, computers and smartphones generate blue light, which can interfere with sleep. Switch these devices off well before bedtime, and choose to read a good book instead.
- Laugh More:
Laughter can be a powerful medicine. Engage in fun and enjoyable activities to create more opportunities for enjoyment and laughter breaking the destructive cycle of stress in your lifestyle.
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