There’s no known cause-and-effect relationship between irritable bowel syndrome and depression.
Think of them instead as “known associates.” For many people, the two conditions are often found together, sometimes bringing out the worst in each other.
We recognize that this can be a frustrating cycle. Fortunately, many of the steps that can alleviate depression can help with IBS symptoms as well. Read on to learn more about the connection between IBS, anxiety and depression.
How do depression, anxiety and IBS work together?
Depression can affect the way you deal with IBS. You might be less motivated to change your eating and exercise habits. And emotional stress can exacerbate bowel symptoms.
And having IBS can leave you feeling withdrawn, irritable and restless, all of which are symptoms of depression.
Having anxiety can affect your digestive system, just as digestive troubles can make you feel anxious. The connection between IBS, anxiety and depression forms an unpleasant circle: what’s happening in our stomach affects our heads, and vice versa.
Treating IBS and depression
There are some antidepressants that can also treat some of the symptoms of IBS. According to the American College of Gastroenterology, these medications include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors such as Paxil and Zoloft, and tricyclic antidepressants such as Elavil and Pamelor.
It is important to talk to your doctor to learn how you should take these drugs, or if they are even right for you.
In addition to medication, cognitive behavioral therapy can help people deal with depression. This therapy teaches people to recognize negative thinking and to replace those thoughts with more positive ones. The American College of Gastroenterology says that behavioral therapy can help people with IBS.
You may also want to try stress management techniques such as deep breathing or meditation. Seek out support groups in your community for people with IBS. Your doctor or therapist might be able to find a group that works for you.
Dealing with anxiety and IBS
Having anxiety will affect your digestive system, but there are steps you can take to deal with both at the same time:
Get some exercise – Jogging is a very effective way of dealing with stress, but really any form of exercise can help you digest your meals.
Make sure you get enough sleep – We recognize that having anxiety might make sleeping difficult. But when you get the chance to get a good eight hours of sleep, don’t shy away. Getting a full night’s sleep can help ensure your body is functioning at its best.
Avoid foods that might increase IBS symptoms – These foods include fried foods, dairy products, foods that are high in fat, and drinks with alcohol, caffeine or carbonation.
Eat foods that help IBS symptoms – This list includes high fiber foods such as whole grains, beans, fruits and cereals.
Keep a food journal – This journal will allow you to track what you eat each day, and how bad your IBS symptoms were on that day. It will help you see connections between your symptoms and what you eat. You may even find that healthy foods trigger your symptoms if your body is sensitive to them.
Eat small, and be consistent – Eating a large meal puts stress on our bodies as we try to digest that food. When you eat a smaller meal, it allows your body to function much more smoothly. Avoid skipping meals, and try to eat at the same time each day. Skipping meals makes it more likely to gain weight when you eat.
If the connection between IBS, anxiety and depression is making your life difficult, Proper Nutrition can help. Our whole food supplements such as Seacure® are made from protein-rich white fish, and contain bioactive peptides that fight the effects of digestive disorders such as IBS.
Visit our product page today to find a supplement that can make things easier for you.