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Link Between IBS and Stress: Can Stress Cause IBS Symptoms?

Mar 25, 2024
Link Between IBS and Stress: Can Stress Cause IBS Symptoms?

Living with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) can feel like navigating a maze of unpredictable symptoms. From abdominal pain to bloating and irregular bowel movements, the impact of IBS on daily life can be significant. While the exact cause of IBS remains elusive, researchers have long recognized a strong connection between IBS and stress. But can stress truly cause IBS symptoms?

Understanding the Relationship Between IBS and Stress

For many individuals with IBS, stress appears to exacerbate symptoms, leading to flare-ups and increased discomfort. The gut-brain axis, a complex communication network between the brain and the gut, plays a crucial role in this relationship. When you experience stress, whether it's due to work deadlines, relationship issues, or other life events, your brain sends signals to your gut, triggering physical responses.

IBS and Stress - a vicious cycle

As stress levels rise, so too can IBS symptoms. Conversely, experiencing IBS symptoms can also induce stress, creating a vicious cycle that exacerbates the condition. This bidirectional relationship underscores the importance of managing stress effectively for individuals with IBS.

Can Stress Cause IBS?
While stress doesn't directly cause IBS, it can act as a trigger for symptoms in susceptible individuals. Research suggests that stress can alter gut motility, increase gut sensitivity, and disrupt the balance of gut microbiota, all of which can contribute to IBS symptoms.

Managing Stress for Better IBS Management
Given the significant impact of stress on IBS symptoms, finding effective stress management techniques is paramount. Incorporating relaxation techniques such as deep breathing exercises, meditation, yoga, or mindfulness practices into your daily routine can help alleviate stress and reduce the frequency and severity of IBS flare-ups.

Take Control of Your Well-being
If you're struggling with IBS symptoms exacerbated by stress, it's essential to take proactive steps to manage both your physical and emotional well-being. Prioritize self-care activities that promote relaxation and stress reduction, such as spending time outdoors, engaging in hobbies you enjoy, or connecting with supportive friends and family members.

While the link between IBS and stress is undeniable, it's important to remember that stress management is just one component of comprehensive IBS treatment. Working closely with a healthcare provider to develop a personalized treatment plan tailored to your unique needs can help you regain control of your gut health and improve your quality of life.


This article was authored by Kristina Zalnieraite, Licensed Dietitian and Head of Dietetics and Medical Affairs @ Do you need support with a symptom, condition or gut health goal? You can book a free online consultation with Kristina here.

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