Understanding Irritable Bowel Syndrome, its possible causes and how you can manage the symptoms of IBS
What is IBS?
Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a condition defined by a group of symptoms including bloating, stomach cramps, diarrhoea and constipation. A digestive system disorder affecting your gut and intestine function, IBS can leave sufferers exhausted, low in mood and often unable to extract the nutrients they need from their food to stay happy and healthy. Whilst not considered life-threatening, IBS can greatly impact your quality of life. Understanding your IBS symptoms and triggers can be the first step towards getting this complex mind-body condition under control.
Central sensitisation and IBS
Central sensitisation is a mind-body phenomenon whereby the brain overreacts to otherwise harmless stimuli by turning up the pain signals in the body. A dysregulated nervous system can lead to feelings of fear and anxiety and result in an amplification of Central sensitisation. Chronic pain conditions such as IBS, Chronic Fatigue and Fibromyalgia, are often a cry for help from the emotional heart, which only has one tool to communicate with you – pain!
Ways to manage and reduce IBS symptoms
Anything that helps you to down-regulate your nervous system, destress and let go of negative thought patterns, will be hugely beneficial for the management of IBS symptoms. Ideas include: yoga, mindfulness meditation, journaling, breath work, massage, walks or swims in nature, hot baths, music or art therapy, Thai chi…
The Gut-Brain Axis and IBS
IBS is considered a systemic condition, which means that it affects multiple systems in the body, notably the nervous system – the communication system between brain and body that controls how you move, feel, sleep and even breathe – and more precisely, the enteric nervous system, which is the message centre between your gastrointestinal tract and brain.
Communication between the gut and brain is bidirectional. Up to 95% of the happy hormone serotonin is produced in your gut by an extensive community of friendly bacteria, which call our gut their home. The hard work done by these helpful homemakers sends serotonin up to your brain via the spinal cord’s, Vagus nerve. This body-to-brain interplay has big implications for emotional well-being in IBS sufferers, who often have a weakly populated microbiome and are stuck in a self-perpetuating cycle of low moods and a dysfunctional GI tract.
Here is the link to “Pain regulation by gut microbiota: molecular mechanisms and therapeutic potential”:
How to Improve the Gut-Brain Axis
Understand that the food you eat is only part of the story. Your ability to digest challenging thoughts, events and emotions is key to feeling grounded and satiated in life. That said, improving your microbiota by eating a mainly wholefood diet rich in good fats, a large variety of plant-based foods, healthy proteins and daily probiotics, will greatly support the ability of your gut to support you. Consider writing a simple food, symptoms & daily emotions diary, to draw the dots between the bio-psycho-social implications of IBS for you. Working with a talk therapist, nutritionist and myofascial release practitioner may also be beneficial.