Many may not know it, but April is Irritable Bowel Syndrome Awareness Month. People who don't understand the condition may view it as trivial, but symptoms can become debilitating. There's also a noted link to mental health issues.
IBS has a wide range of symptoms and severity. It's a gastrointestinal disorder that causes gaseousness, bloating, abdominal pain or discomfort and changes in bowel habits. It's not known why people suffer from it and there is no "cure," per se.
Experts do believe there is a link between IBS and mental health, however. The symptoms may be a response to physical or psychological stress, although stress cannot always be pinpointed as a primary cause. In addition, it's believed that some people who suffer from the disorder go on to suffer from mental health problems, possibly because IBS can be stressful and embarrassing.
One psychologist says that anxiety and stress play a key role for IBS sufferers, according to EmpowHer's website. The psychologist suggests keeping a journal of one's diet as a way to track possible triggers of IBS. Cognitive behavioral therapy can also be an effective treatment, as can relaxation exercises.
Typically, women suffer from IBS more frequently than men, although men are less likely to report it. And while there is no easy cure, the psychologist thinks that a combination of stress relief and an IBS diet can provide relief of at least some of the symptoms. That may not sound like a lot, but for IBS sufferers it could be a huge help.
Source: EmpowHer, "IBS Awareness Month: Link between Irritable Bowel Syndrome and mental health," Rheyanne Weaver, March 21, 2012
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