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The Link between IBS and Emotions: Can emotions trigger IBS?

Jan 18, 2024
The Link between IBS and Emotions: Can emotions trigger IBS?

Emotions, intricate and powerful, play an important role in shaping our daily experiences. The connection between our emotional well-being and gut health is a subject that has gained considerable attention. In this blog post we will discuss the intricate relationship between emotions and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), exploring whether emotions can indeed act as triggers for IBS symptoms.

The emotion-gut connection:

Emotions are not relited to the mind alone; they manifest as physiological responses and observable behaviors. Rooted in the limbic system, our emotional experiences can significantly influence our overall well-being and gut health. Let's take a closer look at how emotions and your gut are connected, especially when it comes to IBS.

Emotions as stressors:

Transformed into stress reactions, emotions can exacerbate the onset and severity of IBS symptoms. One key factor in this transformation is emotion suppression – a common practice ingrained in many of us since childhood. Messages like "Boys don't cry" or "Stop being angry" have made us feel that showing certain feelings is not okay. Suppressing emotions can elevate stress levels in the body, contributing to higher instances of depression and anxiety. For instance, studies indicate that holding back your feelings is connected to increased activity in the sympathetic nervous system, which makes you feel more stressed – a bit ironic, right? This is why learning to regulate your emotions is a crucial skill, not just for overall well-being but also for handling IBS symptoms. 

Keep in mind that holding back emotions can be useful in certain situations (like formal settings), but it's important to differentiate between the situations and have other, more effective emotion regulation strategies in your toolkit. Effectively managing emotions can lower stress levels in the body and, consequently, alleviate IBS symptoms.

Understanding emotion regulation:

Emotion regulation is about controlling and managing emotions. It involves influencing which emotions we feel, when we feel them, and how we express them. It’s crucial to distinguish between regulating emotions and suppressing them. To regulate emotions, be aware of them and their triggers. Recognize the sensations when emotions arise, express them in words, identify triggers, and understand underlying thoughts.

Practical steps for emotion regulation and mindfulness:

To get better at handling emotions, try daily journaling about how you feel. As you write, try to think and explain to yourself why you feel the way you do. It's like figuring out the story behind each feeling. Explore your inner world without judgment. Some context can also be added to the journal (e.g. “I feel agitated because of the situation x at work”). Subsequently, as you become more familiar with your emotions, you can begin to explore various methods for calming them, such as reaching out to a friend in one scenario and establishing your boundaries in another.

Acceptance and peace with your mind:

Remember, all emotions are valid. The path to a more peaceful gut begins with being at peace with your mind. Explore various methods for calming emotions, such as reaching out to a friend, setting boundaries, trying yoga, or practicing mindfulness. As you understand your feelings better, you'll notice that a calm mind can lead to a happier stomach and ease IBS symptoms.


  • Emotions matter: Understand the impact of emotions on your gut health and what impact it has on triggering IBS symptoms.
  • Avoid suppression: Suppressing emotions can elevate stress levels, potentially worsening IBS symptoms.
  • Embrace regulation: Develop emotion regulation skills to manage stress and promote overall well-being.
  • Journaling: Daily journaling is a practical step towards understanding and expressing your emotions.
  • Holistic approach: At Guthealth.care, our programs use a 360 approach, considering nutrition, body, and mind in a holistic approach to IBS management.

Exploring the link between emotions and IBS is crucial for understanding triggers. Can emotions trigger IBS? By uncovering the intricate relationship between emotions and gut health, we discover the complex connection linked to your IBS symptoms. Take control of your well-being by learning to handle your emotions and embrace a holistic approach to managing IBS with our comprehensive programs at Guthealth.care.


This article was authored by Julija Morozovaite, Clinical Psychologist and Head of Clinical Psychology @ Guthealth.care. Do you need support with a symptom, condition or gut health goal? You can book a free online consultation with Julija here.

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