Colon Irritable? Irritable Bowel Syndrome Diarrhea in the Head

There are days when you’re a little grumpy. But, for some, every day finds their colon irritable. But is irritable bowel syndrome diarrhea all in your head?

Despite what some may think, irritable bowel syndrome (otherwise known as IBS) has been around virtually forever.  However, in 2002, a drug called Lotronex was approved for treatment of diarrhea predominate IBS.  And, as is wont to occur when big money gets involved, the direct to consumer advertising that ensued seemed to educate the world on IBS.

For a little background, IBS is a term that encompasses a variety of gut related symptoms that can include abdominal pain, bloating, gas or cramping with these characteristics:

  • Diarrhea or constipation, with the possibility of altering between the two
  • Mucus in the stool
  • The pain is relieved by having a bowel movement
  • The pain is linked to a change in how often you have a bowel movement
  • The pain is linked to a change in the appearance or consistency of your stool

The symptoms of IBS, of course, can be highly variable.  One thing that is consistent, however, is just how much this can impact the sufferers’ life.

It is also not uncommon to see IBS go hand in hand with fibromyalgia.

Spastic colon is referred to as a functional bowel disorder, meaning that there is something wrong with the way the gut is working.  Contrast this with a pathological bowel disease such as ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, diverticulitis or colorectal cancer.  Traditionally trained gastroenterologists are in general, quite frankly clueless about how to treat functional bowel disorders.  It is almost as if they have completely forgotten how the gut works and have no real tools to help restore healthy function of the gut.

Maybe this stems from the tools in the toolbox–there are few, if any, pharmaceutical drugs on the market that support normal function in the body.  In almost every case drugs interfere with the normal processes that occur.  They block, they speed up, they slow down.  But none are designed to normalize.  So if you have a problem that stems from poor function of the gut and you have no tools to fix the function, that condition will be almost impossible to treat.

If you’d like my take (and even if you don’t…) on IBS, here it is in a nutshell:

  1. Stress is a massive, massive player in IBS
  2. Supporting digestion with digestive enzymes and / or hydrochloric acid can be a powerful tool
  3. Probiotic supplementation is a must (so much so that, if a physician you are seeing for your IBS has not recommended them, you need to run the other way)
  4. A healthy diet is necessary for long term benefit
  5. Magnesium is an almost guaranteed fix for constipation-dominant IBS

For this particular study, we need to focus on #1 above.  Stress.

Stress destroys the gut.  But the gut has been considered the “second brain” because it contains massive levels of hormones that effect the nervous system.  So, with irritable bowel, does stress cause the IBS or does IBS lead to stress?

It’s the proverbial chicken-or-the-egg dilemma.

Researchers tried to answer the question by looking at how much anxiety increased the risk for irritable bowel as well as whether those with IBS were more likely to develop anxiety.

They found that it works both ways.  Anxiety increases the risk of developing irritable bowel.  But IRS also increases the risk of developing anxiety.

The bottom line is that every aspect of your body and health interact with every other system.  No single part of your body lives in a vacuum unaffected by its neighbors.

Since stress is such a strong player in the development of IBS as well as the management of irritable bowel syndrome, have you had success in using tools like biofeedback or meditation to help with your symptoms?


James Bogash

For more than a decade, Dr. Bogash has stayed current with the medical literature as it relates to physiology, disease prevention and disease management. He uses his knowledge to educate patients, the community and cyberspace on the best way to avoid and / or manage chronic diseases using lifestyle and targeted supplementation.