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Can Stress Cause Irritable Bowel Syndrome & Ways to Cope With IBS Caused by Stress?

Can Stress Cause Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

There is no proof that stress can cause irritable bowel syndrome as the cause of IBS is still unknown but stress can trigger the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. One of the main reasons for the occurrence of irritable bowel syndrome is the complex biological interaction occurring between the gut and the brain. Thus, it is very important to consider all the factors that may cause internal or external stress to understand and treat the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.

The first step towards the treatment of the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome is to identify and understand the relationship between irritable bowel syndrome and stress. It is important that you talk to your medical care provider or doctor about these factors and find out the ways to manage your condition. This will not only get rid of your irritable bowel syndrome symptoms but also improve the quality of your living.

Medical experts are still trying to find out as to why increased stress level triggers irritable bowel syndrome. But we know for sure that stress is one of main triggers behind the occurrence of irritable bowel syndrome. About more than 60% of the people who have irritable bowel syndrome are known to suffer from some or the other types of psychiatric disorders. Among all these irritable bowel syndrome cases with psychiatric disorders, the largest share is of generalized anxiety disorder (60%) followed by depression (20%). The rest 20% of the people have other types of psychiatric disorders.

People suffering from anxiety and depression have the tendency to be always worried about their future, life, money, job etc… irrespective of the irritable bowel syndrome symptoms. Some common symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome include dizziness, irritation, body ache, trembling stomach disorders.

Can Stress Cause Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

There are various possible theories to explain the connection between the occurrence of irritable bowel syndrome and stress. Some of them are as follows:

  • No psychological problems including anxiety can directly lead to irritable bowel syndrome but people suffering from anxiety and depression are more likely to suffer from emotional disorders.
  • Stress and anxiety makes you think more about the digestive troubles and colon disorders.
  • Disturbance in the immune system caused by stress can also lead to irritable bowel syndrome.

How to Cope With Irritable Bowel Syndrome Caused by Stress?

It has been proven that irritable bowel syndrome symptoms can be suppressed or avoided if you can control the level of stress. There are various techniques and practices that you can follow to control your stress level and better cope with irritable bowel syndrome. You can think about the best moments in your life or indulge yourself in the activities that make you happy. Go out for ride, picnic or shopping. You can also engage yourself in your hobbies such as listening to music, gardening or playing. Exercise is also an effective to manage stress levels. Certain special practices like Yoga are known to be particularly helpful in avoiding stress. Good sleep, proper diet and healthy lifestyle can ensure that you stay away from the stress.

If you are finding it difficult to manage stress, seek help of your doctor to find out the medications, therapies of techniques that can help you manage stress. Take care to follow the medication for constipation and diarrhea properly to avoid stress as it can trigger irritable bowel syndrome.

The best way to start coping is to talk to you primary health care provider and see if it helps. In case it does not, then you must look for other experts such as psychologists or therapists.

About 2 out of every 3 individuals suffering from irritable bowel syndrome can cope with the symptoms just be taking the proper medication and following the proper diet. It is only the remaining cases where psychological help is required to manage the symptoms. Such cases of irritable bowel syndrome are more severe and require special attention.

Some of the special coping methods such as biofeedback, hypnosis, relaxation therapy, traditional psychotherapy and cognitive behavioral therapy are also helpful in coping with the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. However, therapies are not helpful in treating some particular symptoms such as constant belly ache and constipation.

One way to easily cope with irritable bowel syndrome is by having smaller meals. Larger meals can make your body stressed as your body needs to put more effort to break it down. Thus, it is better that you take smaller meals that can be easily processed and absorbed into the body when you have irritable bowel syndrome. Make sure you maintain regularity in time of meals. Do not skip your meals. Skipping meals can be very harmful for your body as well as create digestive problems.

Support groups are also very helpful for controlling the stress and cope with irritable bowel syndrome symptoms. Support groups you can meet more people going through the same condition and talk to them about managing the symptoms.


  1. Harvard Health Publishing. (2021). Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Harvard Medical School https://www.health.harvard.edu/a_to_z/irritable-bowel-syndrome-ibs-a-to-z
  2. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. (2020). Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/irritable-bowel-syndrome

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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:August 8, 2023

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