The Stress Response and IBS
What is the stress response?
The stress response is how our bodies respond to change; both external and internal. Also know as the flight or fight response, this developed to increase our chance of survival in life threatening situations. It involves several different systems in our body, including the endocrine, nervous, and general body function. (Heart rate, blood pressure, muscle tension, and bowel functioning.)
What is IBS?
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a very common, but rarely spoke of disorder that is characterized by abdominal pain, bloating, gas, mucus on the stool, constipation, diarrhea, and nausea. Sometimes can be misdiagnosed as colitis, irritable bowel disease or spastic colon. IBS affects mostly women under the age of 35, even though anyone can experience symptoms.
What is the gut-brain connection?
Responding to some form of stress (Can be either internal or external) parts of the brain communicate with each other and trigger a response in the body. If you've ever felt nauseous or had a gut-wrenching feeling in certain situations, this is why! Emotion reactions can trigger symptoms in our body. Stress, nerves, and other psychological problems can cause bodily reactions, especially in your gut.
- First response: hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. This increases hormonal secretions.
- Second response: automatic nervous system. This causes muscular, cardiovascular, and digestive changes.
These two pathways have a direct effect on our nerves in our bowels. A look at the direct chain of brain to gut functions shows the interconnection of the two, and how they relate to each other. Scientists have discovered how closely intertwined the two are, and we now know that the brain has a profound affect on the stomach, and vice-versa. We know that thinking about food can set of the stomach's juices. A troubled intestine can also send signals to the brain.
What are some physical symptoms of the stress response?
- Increase in heart rate
- Bladder muscles relaxed
- Increase in colon contractions
- Immune system inhibition
- Increase muscle tension
- Increase respiration
What are the causes of IBS?
No one knows why IBS is caused. It is speculated that in a person experiencing symptoms of IBS, their colon muscles are incredibly sensitive to stimuli. (Such as stress, certain foods, or medications.) Usually the muscles in the walls of the intestine relax and contract as food moves through the intestinal track. In people with IBS, food either moves too slow (constipation) or too fast (diarrhea), causing symptoms that range from minor to severe. Researchers are not sure why the muscles are more sensitive in IBS people than other people.
What could be some triggers of IBS?
- Certain Foods.
What some trigger foods of IBS?
- Vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, onions, garlic, and brussel sprouts
- Red meat
- Dark meat
- Citrus fruits
- Deep fried foods
- Carbonated beverages
- Fats, oils, butter, shortening
- Mayonnaise and salad dressings
- Whole grains
Even though having Irritable Bowel Syndrome can be stressful, there are ways to live a full and happy life with the symptoms. Being educated on IBS and knowing how your body works are a step in the right direction!