Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic gastrointestinal condition that can cause day-to-day discomfort to the affected person. It can cause chronic cramping, bloating, gas and diarrhoea. New studies have found a connection between IBS and psychological conditions like anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts. As per experts, people with IBS must be regularly checked for psychiatric symptoms to improve the overall quality of their lives.
Studies are showing that IBS can take a toll on people's mental health. The condition is characterized by alternating cycles of diarrhoea and constipation. Some people also refer to this condition as a gut-brain disorder. As per reports, people with IBS have sensitive nerve endings in the bowel walls and any disturbing stimulus can easily lead to symptoms like bloating, gas formation and irregular stool habits.
What might be happening?
The study published in the Irish Journal of Medical Science looked at more than 1.2 million IBS patient hospitalizations across the US hospitals over a span of three years. They found that 38-per cent of them had anxiety and 27 per cent of them had depression. The prevalence of psychiatric problems like anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts and eating disorders was higher in the IBS population when compared to the general population.
As per the study, those having IBS with diarrhoea were more likely to develop anxiety and depression. Those with IBS with constipation were more prone to anxiety disorders and those having an overlap of both had greater odds for depression. All showed an increased risk of having suicidal thoughts.
The study showed that younger people with IBS were more likely to develop anxiety and older adults showed a higher risk of depression.
As per experts, the most possible explanation for this condition could be the gut-brain axis. The relationship can be bi-directional. Our brain health influences the gut microbiome and the other way around. According to them if results are showing that IBS symptoms can trigger anxiety and depression then there is also a possibility that mental disorders could cause IBS symptoms.
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As per quoted experts, psychological symptoms among IBS-affected people can lead to long and frequent stays in hospitals which can lead to an increased burden on the medical system.
What are IBS flares-up?
The symptoms of IBS can vary from person to person. Some might experience symptoms on a routine basis, while others might remain symptom-free for days. IBS can happen in many ways. It could include just the diarrhea phase or just the constipation phase or a mixture of both. Flares-up are episodes when a person's symptoms might worsen. A trigger can be a diet following which they might experience symptoms. The following are some common symptoms-
Alternating episodes of diarrhea and constipation
Mucus in stool
The feeling of bowels of not being completely empty after passing stool.