Bad day for your bowels?

Having one of those days…weeks…months?  If so, you should consider getting help before you end up with toilet troubles.

Seriously?   According to the results of a study unveiled this week at the American College of Gastroenterology’s (ACG) 76th Annual Scientific Meeting, the psychological and emotional traumas experienced over a lifetime, such as the death of a loved one, divorce, natural disaster, house fire or car accident, physical or mental abuse, all may contribute to adults with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Researchers from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, found that adults with IBS reported more traumas over a lifetime than matched controls .

While stress has been linked to IBS, and childhood abuse has been reported to be present in up to 50 percent of patients with IBS, most studies of abuse have focused on sexual abuse with sparse detail and also have not looked at other forms of psychological trauma,” said Yuri Saito-Loftus, MD. “This is the first study that looks at multiple forms of trauma, the timing of those traumas, and traumas in a family setting.”

IBS is a chronic gastrointestinal disorder marked by abdominal discomfort, bloating, constipation and/or diarrhea and may be caused by changes in the nerves and muscles that control sensation and motility of the bowel. Trauma may sensitize the brain and the gut, according to Dr. Saito-Loftus, who said that the results of this study indicate that patients with IBS experience or report traumas at a level higher than patients without IBS.

In the United States, it is estimated that 10-15% of the adult population suffers from IBS. The burden of illness for IBS is significant and can have such a severe impact on Health-Related Quality of Life that it has been linked to an increase in suicidal behavior.

Patients and their families frequently wonder, ‘why me?’, ‘why did this happen?,’” said Dr. Saito Loftus. “This will help them understand why IBS happened to them.”

Our advice?  Do not “underplay” the role of stress. Even if you think you can cope with life’s little traumatic experiences on your own, your bowels may not agree.

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4 thoughts on “Bad day for your bowels?

  1. Great post. It’d be interesting to study the same exclusively in a population of children of divorce and abuse. Though included, divorce was one of multiple stress factors studied. I’d be willing to bet that the incidence of IBS will be even higher in this subgroup. Most types of trauma studied appear to be acute events. Divorce and Abuse are chronic and as such one would expect the incidence and severity of IBS to be greater. I hope to God I’m wrong!

    • We’re afraid you’re not. There is a lot of research to show that triggers for IBS include catastrophic and stressful life experiences such as death and divorce.

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