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  • Writer's pictureJo Leccacorvi

IBS and stress

If you have IBS I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you about how stress and anxiety can make your symptoms worse. But why is this exactly? Your brain and your gut are connected by a big nerve called the vagus nerve. This is a two-way connection that allows the brain and the gut to ‘talk’ to each other. So if you are under a lot of stress and feeling anxious this may trigger your IBS symptoms and lead to a flare up. Ironically, this may make your anxiety levels worse when you’re having a flare up. This can lead to a vicious circle where anxiety about your symptoms can make your symptoms worse. This can also have an impact on your mental well-being.

How stress effects digestion

When we are experiencing on-going stress, your body produces the hormone cortisol. While your body is busy making this hormone to deal with the stress, this may have an impact on your digestive system. Digestion slows down and your body produces less stomach acid. This may lead to your food not being digested properly and you may not absorb enough nutrients. This may cause fatigue and your body needs vitamins and minerals to help produce energy. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ As your digestive system slow down you may find you experience bloating, cramping or constipation. Some women find they have diarrhoea with they are stressed. The food moves too quickly through the digestive system, and you may not absorb nutrients as the food is not being digested.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

Managing stress

If your IBS is caused by caused by stress it is important to find ways to manage your stress to help you find relief and support your recovery.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ However, this is easier said then done. Especially if your stress is on-going and is not something you can control. Trying to manage your stress when you can’t control it can feel very overwhelming. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

If this is how you feel maybe you could build self-care into your weekly routine. Try to pick one thing from the list below and find five minutes once a week to do this and build from there by taking baby steps.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ • Mindfulness practice⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ • Beathing practice (box breath or yoga breath)⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ • Yoga (look on YouTube or there are lots of apps)⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ • Go for a walk⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ • Have a bath⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ • Dance to your favourite song⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ • Listen to a podcast⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ • Eat a delicious and comforting meal⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ • Watch a series on Netflix⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ • Go to bed early⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Remember you don’t have to do everything on this list or you could even do something that isn’t on here, just pick one, start with five minutes and build on that. If you find that your stress is unmanageable and not something that you can manage by yourself, it is important to seek professional advice from a trained counsellor. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀


Sometimes self-care can feel like it’s just another thing to do that needs to be ticked off the to-do list. But it is important, you can’t pour from an empty cup.

As exhausted busy women we deserve a bit of self-care. We’re constantly running around and managing the mental load. We often put other’s needs before our own. If we’re physically and mentally exhausted, then we’re not going to be at our best. Self-care could be taking five minutes to pick something from the list above. It could also involve a mindset shift. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that you can only do what you can do. Surrender to the fact that you can’t do it all, that’s impossible and puts a serious amount of pressure on you. Remember, you can’t pour from an empty cup and you deserve to be at your best.

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