Addressing Stress and Emotions in IBS – Empowering Yourself in Healing

Written by: Nick Ortner

When you live with a condition as difficult as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), you are probably all too familiar with stress, anxiety, fear, worry, anger, and other emotions.

Life with IBS is not easy, and it makes sense if you feel overwhelmed by it all at times. Plus, life outside of IBS has so many stressors of its own.

Unfortunately, research shows us that stress can contribute to IBS symptoms. So a vicious cycle can occur with stress worsening symptoms, symptoms worsening stress, and so on.

But there’s good news! Relief from IBS is possible – especially when you address the role stress and difficult emotions may be playing in your condition.

IBS: A Stressful Condition That Takes an Emotional Toll

IBS is a very challenging condition that can affect all aspects of your life. It often limits daily functioning and productivity, affects relationships, and gets in the way of important activities like work, school, and home life.[1-3]

In addition to painful and uncomfortable symptoms, people with IBS also often experience fear and anxiety related to their symptoms, possible triggers, and flare-ups. They commonly avoid certain places and situations out of worry about what might happen.[1,4]

And on top of all of that, IBS sufferers also face a lack of understanding about their condition. Loved ones, strangers, colleagues, and doctors often do not understand and even dismiss their concerns. The stigma surrounding IBS can lead to shame, embarrassment, and self-judgment.[5]

If you have IBS, it’s no wonder that you might often feel stressed, worried, anxious, fearful, angry, lonely, and a wide range of other emotions. It can be very stressful to live with this condition, and it can take a major emotional toll.[4]

But here’s what is important to realize: stress and difficult emotions appear to have the power to trigger and worsen IBS symptoms.[6]

Research Suggests a Strong Link Between IBS, Stress, and Emotions

There is an abundance of research connecting stress and emotions to IBS.[2,6,7,8]

Here are a few findings from the research that help to illustrate the links between IBS stress, emotions, and mental health:

  • About 40-70% of people with IBS also have a mental health condition like anxiety or depression.[2,9]
  • More than half of IBS patients develop IBS symptoms during or after a stressful life event.[6,9]
  • Early life stress is very common in people with IBS; abuse, trauma, adversity, family dysfunction, and more are highly reported.[6,7,9]
  • People with IBS often report higher levels of life stress, relationship conflicts, and emotional suppression.[7]
  • When people with IBS experience stress and emotional arousal from things like anger, anxiety, or depression, symptoms tend to be more severe and more noticeable.[6,9,10]
  • People with IBS are more likely to believe emotions are not acceptable than the average person.[8]

As you can see, there are many lines of evidence connecting IBS to stress and emotions.

As some researchers put it, “psychosocial factors contribute to the predisposition, precipitation, and perpetuation of IBS symptoms.”[9] John Hopkins Medicine goes so far as to say:

“It is clear that stress plays a role in the frequency and severity of symptoms of patients with IBS.” [6]

You might be wondering, “But what does stress have to do with the digestive system? Isn’t IBS a condition of the gut, not the mind?”

To understand why stress and emotions can have such a big impact on IBS, we’ll need to look at something called the gut-brain axis.

Understanding the Gut-Brain Axis

Did you know that our guts and our brains are tightly connected? In human biology, there is something called the “gut-brain axis,” which links our brains to our digestive tract through hormonal and neural signaling.

This means that our guts and our brains are constantly talking to each other and communicating. The state our brain is in can affect our gut, and vice versa.

When we experience stress and strong emotional arousal, it creates changes in our nervous system that can have far-reaching effects throughout the entire body. And because the nervous system is linked to the gut through the gut-brain axis, changes in the brain can create changes in the gut.

Studies show us that stress causes real, physical changes in the digestive system that can impair its normal functioning and lead to pain and other gastrointestinal symptoms. For example, stress can lead to changing hormone levels, increased intestinal permeability, and altered motility in the gut (all factors that are known to be a part of the IBS dysfunction).[2,6,9]

When we are under stress or are experiencing strong emotions, it can trigger or worsen digestive symptoms like those you have with IBS.[2,6,9]

Because of the role of the gut-brain axis and the ways in which psychological factors can influence the condition, some researchers even believe that irritable bowel syndrome should also be known as “irritable brain.”[9]

Getting Stuck in a Vicious Cycle

The relationship between stress and symptoms isn’t just one-directional. As we covered earlier, IBS can cause a lot of stress itself.

Unfortunately, this can create a vicious loop that many IBS sufferers find themselves stuck in – with symptoms leading to stress, that stress worsening symptoms, and so on.[2,4,6,7,8]

Each perpetuates the other, and your symptoms, stress, and other difficult emotions can get more and more amplified as the cycle goes along.

This Doesn’t Mean It’s All in Your Head

As we have seen, research suggests strong connections between IBS and stress, emotions, and psychological factors. But it is important to clarify that that does not mean it is all in your head.

The pain and digestive symptoms you are experiencing are very real. No one is assuming you are making them up. They are not your fault, and you have done nothing wrong. IBS is a real condition with real physical symptoms.

So no, it’s not all in the head. But at the same time, addressing your emotions and your stress can be a key part of managing this condition.[4]

The Powerful Healing Effects of Addressing Your Stress and Emotions

So now we know that stress and strong emotions can contribute to IBS symptoms. And here’s the exciting part…

There is an abundance of research showing that techniques that help you to better manage, express, and release stress and difficult emotions can help you to improve IBS symptoms and boost your quality of life.[2,7,11,12]

For example, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), is a common technique that is used in IBS treatment that can help people with IBS to cope with stress, reframe unhelpful beliefs, manage their emotions, and so on. It has been shown time and time again in numerous studies to help decrease nervous system arousal, improve IBS symptoms, reduce disability caused by IBS, and improve quality of life.[2,11,12,13]

You see, people with IBS who learn skills to manage their emotions and lower their stress can experience amazing breakthroughs.

This information helps us to understand that we have tools within us to support our bodies in the healing process; if we address our stress and emotions, we can actually empower ourselves to feel better.

Remission Is Possible!

If this is all sounding too good to be true… we get it. When you are in the depths of IBS symptoms, it might seem like there is no way out. It can begin to feel hopeless, like healing is impossible and not an option for you.

And while there may be no specific cure-all for IBS that will work for everyone, there is one thing we know to be true: remission is definitely possible. Research data tells us that many people with IBS report reduction of symptoms, and even complete remission.[14-17]

So if you have IBS, you need to know that it is possible to heal and get better. You can find relief from your symptoms, just as so many others like you have experienced. So don’t give up!

Harnessing the Power of Tapping to Support Your IBS Healing

The research makes it quite clear that stress and emotions can affect IBS, and also that addressing your stress and emotions can help you to feel better.

Luckily, there is a wide range of healing modalities that can support you in this journey. And one simple, effective technique you can add to your toolbox is Tapping.

Tapping helps us to send calming signals to the brain. It can help to turn off the stress response in the brain that gets activated when we are anxious, overwhelmed, in pain, or facing challenges.[18-20]

If we can learn to help our brain calm down, release stress, and let go of difficult or pent-up emotions, we can help it to relax.

And as a result, we can help to turn down the signals that contribute to troublesome symptoms in our digestion. And that’s what Tapping can help with. If you are interested in learning more about the science and research behind Tapping, go here.

Of course, everyone is unique, and each person’s condition and situation is different. So no promises can be made about how Tapping will work for you. But we can tell you that Tapping has helped many different people to find relief from a variety of concerns like IBS. It has helped others to transform their lives and break free of symptoms like pain, digestive issues, and so much more.

If others can find relief, why can’t you?

We’ve designed a 5-day Tapping Meditation series in The Tapping Solution App to help you utilize the power of Tapping to support your IBS. Here’s what you can expect to find:

Day 1: The Links Between Stress, Emotions, and IBS
Learn about the connection between stress and digestive symptoms, discover how Tapping can help you, and open yourself up to the possibility of relaxing deeper and experiencing healing.

Day 2: Releasing IBS-Related Fear and Anxiety
Consider the role worry and fear may be playing in your condition, and begin the process of releasing these emotions from your body.

Day 3: Addressing Anger and Frustration
Acknowledge and honor any feelings of anger or frustration about your condition and life with IBS, and create a safe space to begin to release the weight of these emotions so they are no longer being held in your body.

Day 4: Exploring the Onset of Your Symptoms
Reflect back on the time when your symptoms began. Explore what was going on in your life before your IBS started to acknowledge any stressors or emotional upheaval that may have played a role in the onset of your symptoms.

Day 5: Imagining Healing and Freedom from IBS
Take time to visualize a life that is not hindered by IBS symptoms. Imagine the healing breakthroughs in your future, and picture yourself experiencing life more fully and freely.

Give It a Try for Yourself in The Tapping Solution App

You deserve to feel well, and to be able to participate in a life that is rich, meaningful, and full. Fortunately, remission from IBS is possible. The more you are able to release your stress and other difficult emotions, the better your chances at finding relief.

Remember, reducing your stress allows your brain and body to relax. It brings you to a place that you can begin to heal and get well. With the power of Tapping, you can support your brain and body to do just that – to let go, to calm down, and to settle into a state of deep healing.

Head to The Tapping Solution App now and get started with the 5 Day IBS Support Series to experience the healing power of Tapping for yourself.

Here are just a few of the many testimonials we’ve received about this series:

“I’ve had severe IBS, possibly other undiagnosed ailments, for years, with lots of frequent stomach/ intestinal pain. I started tapping in February and I’ve had very few flare ups since and the ones I have experienced have been far more tolerable and manageable with tapping. I use all the gut healing ones plus the anxiety and fear ones (because I know the root cause is anxiety). Tapping can help with so many different pains.”

“I love the new 5 Day series for IBS! This series came out when I needed it the most! On day 2 and already feeling much needed relief! Tapping keeps working miracles in my life!”

“I saw wonders doing this IBS series, it literally saved my days. My IBS was destroying my life, I was scared to go out because of pain and hard digestion. Wonderful, after the end of the series I do the tapping now and then and could focus on tapping for different issues.”

Until next time…

Keep Tapping!

Nick Ortner

Download The Tapping Solution App today!

Have you used Tapping to help calm your IBS? Comment below!

1. Ballou S, Keefer L. The impact of irritable bowel syndrome on daily functioning: Characterizing and understanding daily consequences of IBS. Neurogastroenterol Motil. 2017;29(4):10.1111/nmo.12982. doi:10.1111/nmo.12982
2. Ballou S, Bedell A, Keefer L. Psychosocial impact of irritable bowel syndrome: A brief review. World J Gastrointest Pathophysiol. 2015;6(4):120-123. doi:10.4291/wjgp.v6.i4.120
3. Ballou S, McMahon C, Lee HN, et al. Effects of Irritable Bowel Syndrome on Daily Activities Vary Among Subtypes Based on Results From the IBS in America Survey. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2019;17(12):2471-2478.e3. doi:10.1016/j.cgh.2019.08.016
4. Hunt, MG. “Overcoming Irritable Bowel Syndrome.” Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Published November 24, 2018. Accessed July 23, 2021.
5. Taft TH, Keefer L, Artz C, Bratten J, Jones MP. Perceptions of illness stigma in patients with inflammatory bowel disease and irritable bowel syndrome. Qual Life Res. 2011;20(9):1391-1399. doi:10.1007/s11136-011-9883-x
6. “Irritable Bowel Syndrome.” Hopkins Medicine. Published 2001-2013. Accessed July 23, 2021.
7. Thakur ER, Holmes HJ, Lockhart NA, et al. Emotional awareness and expression training improves irritable bowel syndrome: A randomized controlled trial. Neurogastroenterol Motil. 2017;29(12):10.1111/nmo.13143. doi:10.1111/nmo.13143
8. Bowers H, Wroe A. Beliefs about emotions mediate the relationship between emotional suppression and quality of life in irritable bowel syndrome. J Ment Health. 2016;25(2):154-158. doi:10.3109/09638237.2015.1101414
9. Padhy SK, Sahoo S, Mahajan S, Sinha SK. Irritable bowel syndrome: Is it “irritable brain” or “irritable bowel”? J Neurosci Rural Pract. 2015;6(4):568-577. doi:10.4103/0976-3147.169802
10. Muscatello MR, Bruno A, Mento C, Pandolfo G, Zoccali RA. Personality traits and emotional patterns in irritable bowel syndrome. World J Gastroenterol. 2016;22(28):6402-6415. doi:10.3748/wjg.v22.i28.6402
11. Mahvi-Shirazi M, Fathi-Ashtiani A, Rasoolzade-Tabatabaei SK, Amini M. Irritable bowel syndrome treatment: cognitive behavioral therapy versus medical treatment. Arch Med Sci. 2012;8(1):123-129. doi:10.5114/aoms.2012.27292
12. Enck P, Aziz Q, Barbara G, et al. Irritable bowel syndrome. Nat Rev Dis Primers. 2016;2:16014. Published 2016 Mar 24. doi:10.1038/nrdp.2016.14
13. Radu M, Moldovan R, Pintea S, Băban A, Dumitrascu D. Predictors of outcome in cognitive and behavioural interventions for irritable bowel syndrome. A meta-analysis. J Gastrointestin Liver Dis. 2018;27(3):257-263. doi:10.15403/jgld.2014.1121.273.bab
14. FAQ About IBS. International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders. Accessed July 23, 2021.
15. Enck P, Aziz Q, Barbara G, et al. Irritable bowel syndrome. Nat Rev Dis Primers. 2016;2:16014. Published 2016 Mar 24. doi:10.1038/nrdp.2016.14
16. Canavan C, West J, Card T. The epidemiology of irritable bowel syndrome. Clin Epidemiol. 2014;6:71-80. Published 2014 Feb 4. doi:10.2147/CLEP.S40245
17. Irritable Bowel Syndrome: A Global Perspective. World Gastroenterology Organization. WGO Global Guidelines IBS 1-28. Published 2015 Sept.
18. Andrade J, Feinstein D. Energy Psychology: Theory, Indications, Evidence. In: David Feinstein, Energy Psychology Interactive. Innersource, 2004.
19. Church D, Yount G, Brooks AJ. The effect of emotional freedom techniques on stress biochemistry: a randomized controlled trial. J Nerv Ment Dis. 2012;200(10):891-896. doi:10.1097/NMD.0b013e31826b9fc1.
20. The Science and Research. The Tapping Solution. Accessed July 30, 2021.

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