When you’ve got a sensitive gut, do you reach for the “Pepto-Bismol,” or for a laxative? Depending on your symptoms, there’s a good chance you need both. But what if your problem isn’t really an actual digestive system condition…but rather stems from your mind?
Could This Be Causing Your Sensitive Gut, Gastrointestinal Problems?
Functional gastrointestinal disorders—things like abdominal pain, feelings of fullness, nausea, bloating, distension, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and constipation—affect anywhere from 35% to 70% of the population at some point, and it’s more common in women than men.
The thing is, many of these symptoms don’t appear to have any physical causes; however, the symptoms, quite clearly, are physical.
There is a strong pool of data that shows these gastrointestinal troubles may be a result of environmental and psychological stress.
Stress and Gastrointestinal Problems: How it Works
What could be happening is this: when you become stressed, your natural “fight or flight” response—triggered by your autonomic nervous system—that seeks to protect you from threats may in fact slow or outright shut down your digestive system. Instead, all your energy is going towards fighting off the perceived threat. If you find yourself suffering from chronic stress or frequent anxiety, it’s quite possible that this is the cause of your gastrointestinal problems.
Alternative Therapies for Sensitive Gut & Gastrointestinal Problems
What does that mean for people suffering from these health issues? They may actually be best treated by focusing on the mind instead of the gut.
So, instead of constantly just treating the symptoms with medication, you can seek out alternative therapies that focus on reducing the true source of your pain and discomfort: stress and anxiety. Let’s look briefly at some alternative options.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
CBT is a psychotherapy approach that works to help patients change counterproductive thoughts and behavior, while teaching them ways to better cope and manage anxiety and stressful situations.
This form of therapy uses a number of techniques to encourage relaxation and lessen reactivity to stressful events or daily stressors. Things like progressive muscle relaxation, music therapy, and visualization are all components that are used.
Hypnosis can help people without obvious stress, using deep relaxation and positive suggestions uttered by a hypnotist. Some studies have found it very effective for treating gastrointestinal disorders.
So if you’ve tried every medication under the sun and are still having regular gastrointestinal problems, it could be worthwhile to look into this avenue of treatment. As is usually the case, where the mind goes, the body follows.
Source for Today’s Article:
“Stress and the sensitive gut,” Harvard Health Publications, August 2010; http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/stress-and-the-sensitive-gut, last accessed September 7, 2016.