Stress and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
We become stressed when the demands placed on us by life or the environment are more than we think we can cope with. This sets off a response in our body sometimes called the 'fight or flight' syndrome or the 'stress response'. Hormones and neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) put our body on high alert, ready to deal with an emergency.
Unfortunately, we evolved this response at a time when emergencies generally meant a short-term life-threatening situation like a predator jumping out on us or a rockfall, so we get ready to run away or fight back. Nowadays, stressful situations are generally longer-term and mean we need to be calm, think and plan, exactly the opposite of what our bodies expect us to do. This is why stress is such a problem.
70% of people find stress and anxiety affect their digestive system - waiting for an interview you may need to visit the toilet more often or notice 'butterflies' in your tummy.
Those with IBS find that stress can cause a flare-up of their symptoms; one study found that over a three month period, 52% of patients who experienced a flare-up of IBS symptoms also reported high levels of stress, compared with only 29% of those who stayed symptom-free.
Other studies have shown that those diagnosed with IBS often cope less well with stressful situations, increasing the likelihood of them reporting high levels of stress.
This being the case, it stands to reason that reducing stress could help reduce the number of IBS attacks you experience. One reason gut-directed hypnotherapy works is that it brings about deep levels of relaxation and teaches you to cope better with stressful situations.