IBS, nausea, back pain, fatigue... could my health issues simply be caused by the stress of school?

Hey everyone,

For the past year I've been having terribly painful gas that seems to only come about during lunchtime and lasts for about 4 to 5 hours. The pains are sharp and extremely painful like a knife that stabs at my intestines every minute. Doing a number 2 (oh, and farting) usually helps but it doesn't entirely solve the issue - I still feel discomfort for another hour or so.

I also feel terribly bloated so much so that I have to unbutton my pants when I've barely eaten anything, and I feel like I could just explode!

I've basically come to the conclusion that I have IBS.

BUT, this only seems to happen when I'm at school. Maybe the stressful environment could be causing this IBS - if that is what it is. I don't eat anything at school that is particularly different to what I eat anywhere else - I'll usually have some fruit, a sandwich, maybe some juice, and I eat all of these things at home too and experience no symptoms.

Also, lately for the past week I've been feeling nausea when I wake up and it worsens when I eat, at which point I'm repeatedly gagging. During the day, as soon as I put food in my mouth I feel nauseous and just lose my appetite. It's particularly bad when I'm eating carbohydrates - bread, pasta/spaghetti, etc. - although I was okay and didn't have much nausea when I was eating yoghurt.

All I can say is that this nausea started on the day that I was to return to school after a long holiday. I felt really depressed about going back to school, I had an emotional breakdown. To be entirely honest, school is just causing so many problems for me right now, mentally/emotionally, and physically - this whole IBS thing along with terrible lower back pain, headaches, muscle pains in my upper back that never seem to go away, fatigue, anxiety, depression, panic attacks, the list goes on...

School has affected me this way for the past year (I'm in my final year of high school) - I just can't take the pressure and the stress, I'm so sick of fluctuating emotionally and my self-esteem is terribly damaged and incredibly unstable.

I really do think that all of my health concerns are in some way related to the stress - and even trauma I guess - that I'm experiencing from school. I just don't know what to do anymore, I'm just so sick of being in this emotional and physical state. Does anyone have any advice?

Thank you so much for taking the time to reply.

5 Replies

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  • Go to your doctor and get a referral for counselling for a start. Then let them help you with your stomach problems. It's not much fun being painfully bloated.

    Have you tried eating something on rice cakes instead of sandwiches?

    Try looking at fodmap diet, it has a list of things to avoid like things that ferment in your gut. It could help.

    Do you have an outlet for stress like swimming or football or cycling, even going for walks can help your digestion.

    Cognitive therapy can help control your stress. Have you got exams and applications going on for further education? All these things can make you More nervous which will make you stomach crampy.

  • Could be partly stress, but I do think you ought to go to your doctor to get checked out. In particular ask whether you should be screened for coeliac disease, as that can definitely cause that kind of bloating and fatigue and nausea, and especially as you say that carbohydrates (that largely contain wheat) cause you problems. The test would be a blood test, but please don't change your diet before you get tested as you have to be eating normal amounts of gluten for the tests to show up anything. For what its worth, I showed signs of coeliac disease around the same sort of age as you (even though I wasn't diagnosed until much later) and I also had mental health kind of problems - that in hindsight were totally related to the brain fog and malabsorption problems of the coeliac disease.

    So, off to the doctor and focus on telling them about the gut stuff rather than on the emotional stuff (just to make sure they do check out physical problems and don't just put it all down to stress).

    Also check out coeliac uk website as they have lots of good info for people who think they might have coeliac disease.

  • You say:

    "BUT, this only seems to happen when I'm at school. Maybe the stressful environment could be causing this IBS - if that is what it is. I don't eat anything at school that is particularly different to what I eat anywhere else - I'll usually have some fruit, a sandwich, maybe some juice, and I eat all of these things at home too and experience no symptoms."

    You eat the same food, but do you eat differently. I know from my experience that when I am calm I chew my food well. When I am under stress I can swallow food in chunks without chewing.

    The chunks are an invitation for bacteria in the intestine to have a feast with resultant effects of gas ect. This may be worth investigating.

  • I would like to reiterate a lot of what others have said prior to me.

    However, although there is a link between the psychology and the physical, it's a mistake to try and chase which comes first. The fact that you are stressed at school, or the physical symptoms you are feeling.

    I was in a fairly similar situation when I was younger, and it turns out that there was more physical damage than I was led to believe and not enough time was spent investigating my physical ailments, because everyone was too eager to write it all off as stress.

    I would argue that the stress of your body crapping out on you so much would make other things harder to deal with and therefore have a cumulative effect.

    I do agree that watching your diet is a good start. Different foods can have different affects on you depending on when you eat them, so perhaps start experimenting with when you eat stuff and what stuff you actually eat.

    And my last two cents worth: if there's something going on at school, sort it out. Don't let it ruin the rest of your life.

  • Hi, definately get to the doctor and have your physical symptoms checked out. If school is stressful this could make any underlying conditions worse. There may be medications which could help with the digestive problems. Then as others have advised get help for stress. Relaxation techniques or counselling. Try the guidance counsellor or school psychologist. They should be able to help with stress. Good luck with school. Hope things improve for you soon.

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