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IBS and Anxiety

Hi. I'm becoming quite desperate with my symptoms and would really like to share with fellow sufferers.

Ive had IBS since my teens but it seems to have worsened in recent years. Does age have anything to do with it?

My flare-ups are usually triggered by the wrong foods and aggravated greatly by anxiety.

I developed anxiety 25 years ago which then moved to health anxiety meaning that every little twinge causes anxiety and the anxiety just increases the symptoms.

I got gastro in Jan this year. We all had it but the rest of the family recovered within a week. I went on to have the longest flare-up of IBS I've had to date.

Ive been living a very stressful life for five years and was facing my fifth or sixth move to another country. I dont like moving!

So I'm here and well settled with a job and a lovely home, amongst friends and family, but the anxiety and IBS continue, to the point that I'm absolutely desperate and miserable.

Ive been to three doctors for confirmation and they all agreed on IBS aggravated by anxiety.

Ive tried Buscopan, Bevispas, and some homeopathic medication. Im taking Ativan (Lorazepam) during the day and one Librax at night. This is supposed to relax my colon and my anxiety. It helps a little and I sleep well.

Ive had no appetite because of the anxiety so have lost alot of weight. In fact I'm scared to eat because it always causes pain. Im trying to follow the FODMAP diet but I still get pain. Every time, I look at what I've eaten and think "well I'll have to eliminate that food too". But im almost down to bananas, rice and chicken now.

My doctor says I should just eat fresh healthy food. But the FODMAP site says differently.

I actually dont know what to eat or what medication to take any more.

Can a flare-up last this long?

I worry the Doctor has missed something but she says I'm fit and healthy.

Im really terrified that this is never going to go and I just cant live like this for much longer. But I dont know what else I should try.

I only have pain. Seldom diarrhoea or constipation. So I gather its all gas related and due to spasms in my colon, plus my anxious mind magnifying everything.

Any support, help, advice would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks

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Oh you poor soul. I’m so sorry you feel so awful. Can I ask what age you are and where you’re living now?

I started with IBS at the age of 12 and I’m 44 now. I’ve had stages of diarrhoea, constipation and pain. I also have terrible anxiety about it - you feel like your IBS rules your life. I also worry about any little twinge and pain. So I very much understand what you’re going through.

Have you had any types of tests, like a colonoscopy or a sigmoidoscopy? What is your actual bowel habit like (like, do you poop everyday?). One thing I will say, is that it does take us IBS people longer to recover from gastro bugs, but that’s a long time for you to be upset by it.

FODMAP didn’t work for me and I think everyone on here will have their own dietary solutions. However, it’s maybe helpful if I say what I’ve had to cut out. I eliminated wheat from my diet, cut way back on dairy and I don’t eat red meat or pork. I’m careful with green, leafy veg as it can set off gut spasms. I don’t drink normal tea or coffee, but I can have peppermint tea. I also take no products with aspartame, saccharine or any other artificial sweetener. I don’t have margarine, only regular butter. And I eat little and often.

I must say that I really admire you for moving around so much. I am the least adventurous person on the planet!

Sorry for all the questions - we can just help and share more. ❤️❤️

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Thank you so much for the reply. It really does help to talk to someone else who suffers from similar symptoms. I dont know anyone else who has this and I'm afraid my husband is completely fed up with my condition. (I dont blame him!)

I now live in South Africa. Where do you live? Im 62 and was first diagnosed at the age of 18. But I had years in between flare-ups until I hit my 40's and it may not be a coincidence that I had more stress in my life since then.

The usual trigger would be bad eating or gastro but my anxiety would always take over and cause the flare-up to last much longer than it should. I think the anxiety is because I always think THIS time it could be something worse....

Normally a visit to the Doctor and a confirmation of IBS would be enough to cure me.

This time however my anxiety has got the better of me.

Because of my long history of IBS the Doctor isnt keen to do further tests as she's quite certain its just anxiety-aggravated IBS. And I'm sure she's right. But I seem to be caught in this loop now and am afraid that it'll never go. Im afraid to eat because it causes pain, but I'm afraid not to eat because I'm losing weight. (Ironic really as I'm usually happy to lose some weight).

Most of the foods you say you've eliminated, I have too and I'm careful to eat small meals now.

My bowel movements are still regular, now and then when I really panic I get that explosive diarrhoea but otherwise it's just gas and bloating and pain thats low down one day, and high up under my ribs the next. Sometimes its all over, and worse when im really anxious.

It doesnt worry me at night either.

Do you have yours constantly? Or just flare-ups and what triggers them? Do you have any medication that helps?

Sorry for the long post. And thank you again for your help.

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Don’t be sorry for the long post 😉. I often write novels on here lol!

I totally understand the cycle of worry of “could this be something serious this time?”. I’ve made a real pest of myself at my GP because of that. I have terrible health anxiety.

It does sound to me that your anxiety is causing your explosions. It’s been explained to me in the past that adrenaline will quicken our digestive system and unfortunately, for many people, diarrhoea or vomiting is the result of such an anxious adrenaline-fuelled time. It’s such a horrible thing to live with. It pervades your life.

I basically have one or more symptoms of IBS every day. I get acute periods of pain a few times a week. I have idea what causes that because I’ve never had an answer from a medic about that. I swing between IBS-C and IBS-D. At the moment, I’m taking Nexium for heartburn and Laxido to keep me regular. I get appalling back pain when I’m constipated, and ironically, it also causes me to have diarrhoea! My gastroenterologist told me that when we are very constipated, the gut tries extra hard to move it all along (it moves like a caterpillar, if that makes sense). Because it’s a big muscle, the gut keeps spasming away and hitting all that backed up poop and eventually it all gets mashed up and comes out as diarrhoea 🤢. Sorry if this is about graphic! Gastros refer to this as “overflow diarrhoea”.

Anxiety and IBS is a vicious circle. It can cause you to be anxious or you can just be anxious and have an attack of IBS. It sucks 😕. I’ve been there with the not eating thing. I became quite severely underweight. But it actually made my IBS worse, because my gut almost ground to a halt and I became quite ill. It took me a while, but I eat well now (though I’m not slim anymore 😰). I see that you’re taking some meds for anxiety - have you tried any talking therapies? Xx

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A gastrologist in a medical paper on IBS last year, was indicating why we feel so tired with it. Each day you have IBS, its like also doing about 20-30 press ups a day, thats how over worked the gut muscles are in episodes. so we have to rest often, and its all connected, but hard to connect the dots to get rid of the thing for at least a few months.

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Wow that does not surprise me! There really needs be so much more research into IBS. You only have to spend a few hours on here to see how many people really, really suffer with it 😞

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Ive never actually met anyone else with IBS but am glad I joined this forum. Now I can see how many people are suffering with it. I dont think the Doctors realise just how debilitating it can be. I feel exhausted most of the time.

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I am very similar to you. I’m 46 and have had IBS for about 21 years. I’ve had some years where I’ve not been too bad but the last few years and particularly the last 6 months or so my symptoms have been almost daily. My main problem has always been lots of wind, gurglings and rumblings and pain/discomfort and a feeling that my digestive system just won’t settle. I have had quite a stressful couple of years and it’s taking its toll on my digestive system. I’m worried because although I only go once a day (although occasionally will have have one off bouts off diarrhoea for some reason), I’ve been looser recently and that exacerbates my anxiety as I have become obsessed with my bowels tbh. I paid privately to see a gastroenterologist recently and she said because of my age (46) she would be happy to do a colonoscopy, which if course I am now stressing over!! I’ve tried so many things to help:- meds, CBT, counselling, different diets including the Low FODMAP, I listen to a gut directed hypnotherapy app each night and today I’ve started silicol gel but I still am plagued by these symptoms and fear I will never be free from gut issues, it’s draining. My GP wants me to take antidepressants.

Oh and I too absolutely dread tummy bugs, everyone else bounces back after a day or two but my guts will suffer for weeks after!

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Thank you so much for your reply. It amazes me how many people suffer with this condition. I haven't met anyone where I live that has it or understands it, so I've felt very alone.

You say you've had this last bout for six months? That seems such a long time. Im going on for 4 months now and it feels like forever. Will it ever end?

I read that CBT was the answer for IBS. Unfortunately I cant get it here and would have to travel wuite a distance to see a therapist.

I heard that antidepressants do help although I haven't tried yet. Maybe that'll be my next step. I have to do three months of Librax first and I'm hoping and praying that I won't even need to go that long.

I believe its all down to anxiety for me anyway and if I could just sort out one problem the other would fade away too.

Let me know how the silicol gel works for you.

The mind - gut connection is hard to understand but its definitely there. In the middle of this flare-up I had my son's wedding to face. I was terrified that I wouldn't be able to eat or even enjoy the day. But something clicked in my mind and suddenly there were no stomach issues at all. I ate and drank, danced and laughed and I was absolutely fine for a whole week, then bam! It was back, just like that.

If only I could find that switch so I could turn off my mind....

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I forgot to mention that I was put on a low dose of an old-fashioned antidepressant called Amitriptyline for pain. I developed a daily headache about 8 years ago (yet another thing I get get a diagnosis for). It was so severe at first, I ended up in hospital. I got a brain scan and there was nothing there (but yes, there was a brain 😂). Amitriptyline is used off- licence for pain and it has gone a long way to help my headache. But I also noticed it slowed my gut down a bit. Maybe worth asking about that? Xx

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I am absolutely terrible about taking new meds. But if there was one that stopped me ferling any pain I think I'd be tempted.

I have used antidepressants in the past. Wondering if its the next step.

Anxiety can cause headaches, I've had weeks if them and then they disappear to be replaced by another ailment.

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I really struggle to take new meds too. I fear they’ll upset my guts even more. It’s a hard balance.

I’m pretty sure I have a cervical headache. It’s a chronic, daily headache that’s caused by severe tension in the neck. I fit all the symptoms, but no doctor seems to care. It’s unresponsive to any pain meds, even morphine! Sigh.....😳

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I dread tummy bugs too! I feel like I spend all my life trying to avoid them. I’m also obsessed with my bowels too.

I’ve had three sigmoidoscopies over the years - so they’re like half the investigation that a colonoscopy provides. Would it help me to tell you what to expect? Xx

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O wow sorry to here you are in such a bad place, it’s good to talk about it

I’m constantly watching what I eat, grilled fish is usually a good failsafe for me

I’ve looked at the FODMAP diet and straight away saw things that disagree with me, so decided to play safe and give it a miss for now

As for anxiety!! It’s my enemy also

I’ve taken up yoga and have Reiki in a regular basis ( my Reiki lady is also a psychologist and counselor)

I do meditation every morning and evening

anything from 10 min to an hour.

Also breathing exercises, stuck in traffic, in the bathroom etc . .

I hope some of this helpful, if not at least on this site you know your not alone

Hope you start to feel better soon ((hugs))

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Thank you. It's so good to know I'm not alone anymore.

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Yes I know how you feel. Ive had ibs probably since childhood, but mine has got worse over the last few years which have been very stressful. Mine is definitely stress related, and I too have terrible health anxiety. I have terrible pain, trapped wind, and a gurgling stomach, but always worry it’s something else when it goes on for a while. Just had a flare up lasting a couple of weeks, and still feeling a bit off. These flare ups seem to be worse and last longer the older I get, so debilitating. Have just started the fodmap diet, under the supervision of a dietician, so am hoping that will help. Think getting the anxiety under control would be the biggest help, but easier said than done! I find kolanticon gel helps, especially with the gas, unfortunately it’s been out of stock for a month! I get it on prescription, so hoping it will be back in soon. Also take mebeverine which helps a bit with the cramps.

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Thanks. Health Anxiety is awful isnt it? Every little twinge serms so HUGE and presents some or other terminal illness. Then you get stuck in that loop of symptoms=anxiety=symptoms.

You mention your flare-up has finished now. How do you think it went away? Anything different you did?

I will look out for the kolanticon gel, not sure if its available here.

I agree that getting the anxiety in control would be the answer, easier said than done though...

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I am like you in so many ways,I first had symptoms in my teens and I am now 65. I am vegetarian /vegan but can eat most foods without problems but anxiety is my enemy.

I cannot travel even local journeys without lots of planning and trips to the loo, even this morning I have taken Imodium to travel 15 minutes to see my grandchildren.

IBS has ruled my life is is like a weight dragging me down, my husband would like to travel but I cannot face it.

When I am out shopping I am constantly on guard watching the exits or staying close to the toilets, and then if I do have to use them worrying about germs and the fear of making a noise.

I dislike eating out ,especially as unisex toilets seem to be the norm here now, so more anxiety.

In the past I have seen three different hypnotherapists ,all were very odd and I didn’t get any benefit.

I am now thinking of trying CBT,I am desperate to be able to get up in the morning, visit the loo once and have a day out.

Like you I don’t blame my husband for being a little annoyed, he has never really understood my problems, but he has missed out being married to me.

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I think CBT is the answer. I would love to try it. I hear they've had very good results using it to treat IBS.

It's time the doctors had a better understanding of what causes IBS symptoms and how the mind works, instead of just dismissing us with more and more drugs.

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Hi there I could be reading about myself! I've had anxiety since I was 5 and ibs since my teens- they called it spastic colon then. Anxiety is the key with me and in particular health anxiety my latest being fear of getting dementia. I've had fears of cancer, heart problems, MS, MND I could go on. What I do is look up as much as i can about my perceived illness and that helps as you get a proper understanding and not wild ideas that anxiety gives you. I also have moved house a lot in the past 10 years and was always fine until this last downsizing move to the countryside and retirement. Anxiety levels gone through the roof I've hated it here but am slowly settling and gone back to work part time. When the stomach pains start I take Silicol Gel and ease back on the food and try and distract myself. I think youve got yourself in a vicious circle of worry which is exacerbating everything. I'm not me me me with the above but just wanted you to know you are literally not alone - anxiety is crippling but unfortunately we have to do our best to handle it or it takes over and that's not good. Maybe watch that programme on Wednesday 15 May on bbc1 called Anxiety and Me it's Nadia Hussain who is really bad with it - I'm going to as it may help. Anyway enough prattling from me I'm not sure I've given you any comfort but as I said you're not on your own.

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Thank you. The comfort you've given me is knowing I'm not alone in this. Health Anxiety is hell. Half my life is taken up by looking up symptoms and obsessing about every little twinge. It means that the slightest pain I have becomes huge and any condition lasts way longer than it should. The worst is that I know I'm doing it to myself but cant seem to re-train the bad habits I've formed in my mind.

I would love to watch the programme you mentioned but I'm in South Africa. Maybe it'll reach us one day.

The anxiety is so debilitating that I find it hard to make an effort to do any normal day to day things. Fortunately I do work and I find this a good distraction. So good for you that you've got a job again.

Im desperate to get over this IBS flare-up, although in the back of my mind I know there'll be something else to come along and take its place. Its as though myind is never content unless it finds something to be anxious about.

But I'm trying and I wont give up.

I hope you're settling down in your new home and that you can find some peace to enjoy your retirement.

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Yep HA is dreadful why not try another thread on here for anxiety and especially health anxiety? I have and found like-minded people who helped and not made you worse. Good luck at least you're in South Africa and not the wilds of Lancashire though it is beautiful but cold!!

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I too have the same problems as you. I thought things would improve when I retired but, in fact, they have got worse and I ended up with a period of depression, which I haven't had for thirty years. Probably too much time to think about things. I am constantly anxious about everything, including my health. I tried FODMAPS under the care of a dietician but could not really work out what was causing my IBS so now I mainly avoid gluten and dairy . About a year ago I decided to try CBT. At first I didn't think it was helping but now, about 9 months down the line, I think I am feeling slightly less anxious than I am now happier to travel further away from home. I try not to seek out the toilets wherever I go but I have an app on my phone which tells me where the nearest ones are, a kind of comfort blanket I suppose. There is light at the end of the tunnel. You say there are no therapists near you. I think I am right in saying that you can get online consultations. Does anyone know about this? I find exercise also helps. I hope you feel better soon.

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I too am anxious about absolutely everything! Doesn't help does it?

I will look into online consultation for CBT because I really believe it would help. I avoid gluten because it's the one thing I know upsets me, not too sure about anything else though. I tried the FODMAP diet but with my anxiety any food seems to hurt and I end up eliminating so many foods and getting obsessed with what I can eat.

I think you're right about the exercise. I need to make an effort. Anxiety makes one feel so flat it's hard just to do the daily stuff.

At the moment I'm anxious because I have no appetite and I dont really know how to improve that. My stomach is used to living on very little now after four months of eliminating everything I thought might be hurting it.

But the Doctor says I can eat anything because I have anxiety induced IBS. And yet one food after another seems to cause a problem.

How does one improve your appetite? Any ideas?

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Maybe a little and often might help. Then gradually increase the amounts you eat.

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Hi, I sound just like you. I have kept a food diary for 40 years looking for my triggers. I have recently found that avoiding the nightshade foods family, potatoes,tomatoes etc. Is helping a lot

I also made my own saurkraut which I take daily, a large tablespoon, and noticed a really big improvement immediately.

I was using a probiotic daily but this didn't have as much of a good effect as the saurkraut.

I am feeling quite optimistic that I may have found the way forward for me as living with constant belly ache as well as fibro has had a very negative effect on me as a person.

I realize that we are all different, but thought I would share what appears to help me.

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Thank you and well done for finding something that works for you.

Im afraid my anxiety has gone beserk with this flare-up and im obsessing about what I can or can't eat. Having no appetite doesnt help, I'm losing weight, so I have to force myself to eat.

I take probiotics but cant see that they help much.

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hello Becky, your in good company here. I heard you talk about Lorazapam. Im a bit of an expert on Benzos, as I wrote two articles and a published small booklet back in the eighties. I was put on them as guinea pig, "A Benzo baby", in 1974. I was on them til 2010, until changed to the less powerful Diazapam, as in a number of people, at past 50 and 60 there is a heightened chance of short memory loss on long term users.

What I can tell you is Ativan is one of the best antispasmodics out there. For 10mg Ativan, is equivalent to about 30-40mg Diazapam. When I was having counselling sessions each week, my Psychologist wanted me to keep taking the Lorazapam anyway to keep episodes of IBS down. They helped me lead an almost normal life. In fact, so much, that in 1989 I drove a Vauxhall Cavelier all the way from Wales, to Dover, and then across 3000 miles of Europe staying In Vienna for 3 weeks.

Ativan (lorazapam) is very hard to get UK Now. They did a big clamp down on benzos the last 14 years or so. Lorazapam is extremely addictive, and almost impossible to come off without severe withdrawal similar to trying to kick Cocaine.

Lorazapam should be helping you, if its not, then there is possibly an underlying mental issue that needs addressing, and this is where I was refereed to the Psychologist for 6 months. I He took parts of my life up to then, started cognitive Training sessions on "Fear & Fight responses, and identified possible trigger points.

Im 68 now, but like many I have Diverticulitis, which makes everything twice as bad, In fact, I booked myself into A&E yesterday morning with a week long nights of cramp and in daytime I have and enough wind to sail a boat. I came out this morning. Bloods were fine, might have had Diverticulitis flare up, and like you, I became tense about all this and would worry at the least feeling in my bum of lower tummy. The most important thing is to learn how to breathe from Your tummy, Not shallow like IBS suffered tend to do. Special sessions on breathing deep within your abdomen helps to loosen cramped up intestines. But its better you try and see a professional that i was sent to, because they are skilled in this field, with programmed routines and monitoring your physical reactions to certain stimulus. Food wise, is very hard, our food today is nothing as wholesome or nourishing as what my mother home cooked in the 1970's. I stay away from anything fried now or pastry. Only dairy I have is milk for my bones as have bad arthritis. I have been tested for gluten and other intolerances, but seems Im fine, which of course is slightly annoying when you want some sort of answer. Well Im feeling a bit spaced out from my pummelling my tummy by doctors since coming home, so going to have rest, good luck and ask away any questions :)

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Thank you so much for all this info.

I have 1mg Ativan which I can take three times a day, although I dont because I'm terrified I'll get addicted. Also a whole pill makes me feel so woozy I cant really function work wise. So I usually take half a pill in the morning and another half midday. It just takes the edge off the anxiety. At night I take a Librax which I'm told is part anti anxiety and part anti spasmodic. They make me sleepy so I couldn't take them during the day, but they do work. Ive read that some people take up to 2, three times a day. But I've also read they're highly addictive.

As you say, probably my best bet is to get some professional therapy for my anxiety as this IBS has gone on for far too long and I feel completely out of control with it now.

Ive had bad anxiety for about 25 years although I've had long gaps in between but either its my age (62) or that the past 5 years have been extremely stressful with financial problems and moving hone and to different countries a number of times.

I have absolutely no appetite but I'm guessing this is due to anxiety as is all the IBS symptoms which are mainly pain from trapped wind. If it's not in the lower abdomen its right under my ribs, or like right now, in my chest, which I've had a number of times in the last three years when I've been anxious.

I'm going round in circles now, desperate to find something to help, then worried about the side effects and addiction problem.

In fact I suppose I'm so anxious that everything worries me now.

I will try the deep breathing you suggested.

And thank you for writing.

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Hi Becky. Have you tried mindfulness? This can be quite effective and is linked to your breathing. There are lots of online courses out there. I did a Futurelearn course (free) led by Monash University in Australia.

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