I have observed the connection between emotions and IBS in myself and my clients. And I’ve concluded that the most powerful influence on your health is not a supplement or type of food, it’s your mental and emotional state.
I’m talking about the healing power of calming down.
In my personal opinion and experience a majority of IBS sufferers live in a state of panic.
The panic can be so ever present that it simply fades into the background of every day life. You can be in a state of panic and not even feel it. But your nervous system does and it can translate into problems sleeping, brain fog, mood issues or the worsening of symptoms.
As I mentioned, this experience of panic, also called “fight or flight”, can play a big role in the state of digestive health. In this state, digestive and reproductive function shut down. Food is not digested or absorbed properly in the small intestine, and becomes food for bacteria and yeast over growths.
This can be a common cause of bloating and gas.
Breathing shuts down too, becoming shallow and starving the body of oxygen and energy.
The role of emotion in IBS is self perpetuating cycle. Fear and anxiety can throw off the function of the gut and an imbalanced gut can cause fear and anxiety.
There is two ways to approach this problem. You can change your diet, take the right kind of probiotics and addressing any infections or overgrowths. Or you can start working with your thoughts, behaviors, perceptions, fears and body tensions.
A month ago I watched a documentary called “Heal” about the role of emotions in causing disease. It resonated deeply. The premise was the people can get as much, if not more, relief from their health issues by addressing repressed emotions, traumas and focusing their efforts on emotional work. People who do this often defy the expectations of doctors by recovering from stage 4 cancers and or regaining movement after paralyzing accidents.
Working through emotional distress will free up the body’s energy and resources to do what it does best, heal itself. Our distrust of our bodies, doubt and confusion, resistance and tendency to imagine the worst possible outcome most commonly sabotages healing progress.
Calming my client’s fears does help improve their symptoms. Most people recognize the obvious connection between the state of the gut and emotion/stress. So this is a good reminder to focus time and effort on emotional support.
Perpetual panic can be brought on by past or present trauma. Being sick is traumatic. Life can be bumpy. A common reaction to this is hypervigilance or always looking out for imminent danger.
This is where good professional support can help most. Getting good help can calm the nervous system. Trusting in an expert’s care can reduce panic greatly.
This is where testing of the gut can identify common infectious triggers of IBS, like candida, h pylori, parasites, SIBO and large intestine dysbiosis. Testing your thyroid and hormones, including fasting glucose and insulin levels, can also provide valuable information to find the root cause. Because nothing incites panic as much as uncertainty and not knowing what’s causing the problem.
Not knowing what’s wrong can fill the best of us with panic. But having a professional explain to you that the burning, mysterious pain or symptom is caused by inflammation or gas can help the panic subside.
Testing will get you back on the road to health much faster than spending hours researching on the Internet. The most stressed out clients who comes to me are the ones who spend the most time searching and reading online.
The Internet is an unregulated source of information that aggravates the nervous system and overwhelms the mind. It does the opposite of cultivating the calm state that’s best for recovery.
Many years ago after an Internet session I was convinced I had lupus. My husband still makes fun of me for it today.
Self diagnosing based on symptoms is the one of the biggest pitfalls of the Internet. It’s a good way to waste your time, money and limited energy. And it can be downright dangerous.
The right way to troubleshoot IBS is with personal data not generic health advice.
You may need to go through a bunch of different healers to find the right one. It may be discouraging or expensive but don’t let that stop you. Keep trying. That’s what I did.
I had to see a number of healers before I found the person that had the answer for me. If I had give up because of frustration and failures I’d still be sick today.
One of the best ways to help you work through the panic is having someone you trust taking care of you, guiding you and calming your fears. Meditation and other stress relieving activities (walking, yoga, prayer, deep breathing, journaling) can also help, but are not that easy to do.
Recently I had an interesting experience with a stress induced health issue. There’s been a lot of stress in my life lately as we get ready to move and make other big life shifts. My digestion has been fine because I know how to care for it.
But recently one morning, I woke up with lower back pain that just kept getting worse no matter what I did. I tried massage, acupuncture, laying on the floor with my feet up, stretching, hot baths and heating pads.
Nothing helped. It was depressing, frustrating and anxiety producing.
A week into the back pain, I went to a chi gong workshop.
My chi gong teacher told me there was nothing wrong with my back but that my body was tense and frozen in fear and that I wasn’t breathing properly. After talking to my teacher and feeling the support of the practice and my fellow students, my back pain began to melt. By the end of the workshop the pain was gone. And has not returned.
The back pain was a new way for my body to manifest stress about lack of security and stability right now. Recognizing that the pain was intensified by my panic about it was a huge reminder about what to really focus on in my healing.
While life is still stressful I keep it in perspective and take it easy when I am getting overwhelmed. When we are in a state of stress and panic, self care seems to go out the window. We get into our heads and out of the supportive habits that keep us sane.
I’ve noticed that worry about IBS may be a greater problem than the IBS itself. Developing confidence in your body’s ability to heal is difficult and nearly impossible to do all alone.
It takes a village to heal a gut. Get as much help as you can possibly afford.
The trauma of having IBS all those years ago, is still with me today. This is my healing work now. To notice when I go into panic about my health and let it go. I have built a support network of a massage therapist, acupuncturist, chi gong and yoga teachers and sauna sessions to unwind. Time spent outside with my dog is also a great help in releasing worries and tensions.
Getting to a healthier mind frame and emotional state is different for everyone but it starts with paying attention to your thoughts, attitudes, beliefs and stresses. When you understand what drives your behaviors you have a chance at fixing them.
I can’t stress enough how important it is to address this aspect of healing along with the dietary and supplement route. Facing your fears, like the fear of food or fear of a flare, will yield the biggest reward in your health and life.
Those of my clients who’ve healed their fear of eating the wrong thing have made leaps in their progress. I will blog about one such healing success story soon.
The most important thing to change in your life is your relationship with your fearful thoughts. It’s also the hardest. So get help. Health coaches, like me, help people address these issues to move closer to a wholistic recovery.
When your mind and emotional reactions change, your actions change and then your health will follow.
Check out the documentary “Heal” which is now available for download if you need further inspiration.
Angela Privin is proof that IBS is NOT an incurable disease or a disease at all. IBS is a body out of balance. It’s an invitation for change. After solving her own IBS mystery more than a decade ago Angela trained as a health coach to help others.
Angela uses both science and intuition to help people figure out what’s out of balance in their body. She works with lab tests, dietary changes, supplementation and nervous system rebalancing. Get help rebalancing your digestive system and solving your IBS mystery here.