9 Signs and Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

9. Anxiety and depression

IBS is linked to anxiety and depression, as well.

It’s unclear whether IBS symptoms are an expression of mental stress or whether the stress of living with IBS makes people more prone to psychological difficulties.

Whichever comes first, anxiety and digestive IBS symptoms reinforce one another in a vicious cycle.


In a large study in 94,000 people, those with IBS were over 50% more likely to have an anxiety disorder and over 70% more likely to have a mood disorder, such as depression (36Trusted Source).

Another small study compared levels of the stress hormone cortisol in people with and without IBS. During a 2-week teaching practice, those with IBS experienced greater changes in cortisol, suggesting greater stress levels (37Trusted Source).

Additionally, another study found that anxiety reduction therapy reduced stress and IBS symptoms (38Trusted Source).


What to do if you think you have IBS

If you have symptoms of IBS that interfere with your quality of life, visit a primary care doctor, who can help diagnose IBS and rule out other diseases that mimic it. If you don’t already have a physician, you can use the Healthline FindCare tool to find a provider near you.

IBS is diagnosed by recurrent abdominal pain for at least 6 months, combined with weekly pain for 3 months as well as some combination of pain relieved by bowel movements and changes in frequency or form of bowel movements.

A doctor may refer you to a gastroenterologist, a specialist in digestive diseases, who can help you identify triggers and discuss ways to control your symptoms.

Lifestyle changes, such as a low FODMAP diet, stress relief, exercise, drinking plenty of water, and over-the-counter laxatives can also help. Interestingly, a low FODMAP diet is one of the most promising lifestyle changes for alleviating symptoms (39Trusted Source).

Identifying other trigger foods can be difficult, as these are different for each person. Keeping a diary of meals and ingredients can help identify triggers (40Trusted Source).

Probiotic supplements may also reduce symptoms (39Trusted Source).

Additionally, avoiding digestive stimulants, such as caffeine, alcohol, and sugary beverages, can reduce symptoms in some people (41Trusted Source).

If your symptoms don’t respond to lifestyle changes or over-the-counter treatments, there are several medications proven to help in difficult cases.

If you think you have IBS, consider keeping a journal of foods and symptoms. Then, take this information to a doctor to help diagnose and control the condition.



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