Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or IBS, is today one of the most commonly diagnosed gastrointestinal disorders amongst adults in the United States. It is typically associated with symptoms such as bloating, diarrhea, abdominal cramping, and constipation. Although it is unclear exactly how and why the condition of Irritable Bowl Syndrome develops, it is nonetheless defined by specific symptoms and characteristics that in turn are amenable to a variety of treatment remedies. One of the most frequent prescriptions for dealing with the disorder is to learn stress management.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome’s symptoms, unlike the symptoms that attend Ulcerative Colitis, can be alleviated in part by learning to better cope with the daily exigencies and rigors which commonly precipitate anxiety and stress. It is not entirely clear what mechanism stress management affects, or even if there is a causal link between poor stress management and the development of the condition; however, because evidence seems to support the theory that undo stress impacts the overall severity of the condition, physicians routinely advise their patients to conduct a multi-pronged approach for treatment that should include strategies aimed at improving stress management.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome sufferers show a marked predisposition to suffering from emotional or psychiatric disorders such as Generalized Anxiety Disorder or Depression. As stated previously, whether or not this link is causal, or merely a symptomatic response to the body’s inability to cope with emotional stress, remains obscure. However, the theories propounded explaining this association include:
a) Sufferers of Irritable Bowl Syndrome show greater sensitivity to emotional crises and appear to be more susceptible to anxiety or depression.
b) A secondary symptom of high-stress is a heightened awareness of physical discomfort, which includes greater sensitivity to symptoms such as colon spasms .
c) Because stress affects the immune system, Irritable Bowel Syndrome may be activated by a compromised immune system.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome responds well to a variety of exercises, including relaxation techniques, which can be learned from, and practiced with, a professional, performed alone or with a partner, and involve using techniques such as deep breathing and guided or non-guided visualization, in which a tranquil situation or scene is conjured in the mind and then explored. Since stress is frequently an outgrowth of lifestyle, it is often advised to integrate into one’s life style activities that are set apart from one’s daily schedule and that will generate calm and contentment. For example, doctors will advise sufferers to explore activities such as hiking or meditating or yoga, or suggest finding a hobby that promotes a sense of well being.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome also appears to respond favorably to medications, some of which are psychiatric in nature, and include anti-anxiety medications and anti-depressants, others which directly treat symptoms such as bloating or cramping. Traditional therapy too can assist one to better cope with stress, which in turn can help to alleviate symptoms. Clinical therapeutic modalities associated with reduction of IBS symptoms include Behavioral therapy, which seeks to curb certain destructive tendencies or behavior patterns, and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which seeks to make the individual conscientious of thought patterns or behaviors that reinforce negative aspects or self-images one has developed over time. Other alternative modes include biofeedback and hypnosis, although the evidence supporting efficacy for these remedies is still largely circumstantial. There is, of course, no one treatment plan that will work for all people, and since the disorder affects and manifests differently for each individual, care should be taken to create a regiment that fully addresses one’s specific situation. In the event one is suffering from the disorder, it is imperative to remain open to all of the treatment possibilities at one’s disposal and thus ensure a comprehensive plan is implemented to address their case of Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
written by David Gilbert
© Hemorrhoid Information Center 2009