Lonestar Gastroenterology

How are IBS and Anxiety Linked?

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How are IBS and Anxiety Linked?

Irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, is a chronic condition that can wreak havoc on your digestive system and make your life difficult. But how does anxiety and depression affect IBS, if at all, and what can you do about it?

Digestion is critical for many reasons, including getting nutrients to many parts of your body and removing the waste that results from the process. Sadly, there are problems that can affect digesting, including irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS. This functional gastrointestinal disorder affects how your brain and digestive tract cooperate and often involves abdominal pain and bowel movements.

There are numerous factors that can affect your risk of getting IBS or worsening the symptoms, and a common one overlooked is anxiety. To better understand the link between the two, let’s look at how IBS works in your body, how anxiety can affect it, and how you can get help. If you live in the Austin, Texas, area and you’re struggling with the symptoms of IBS, Dr. Rajesh Mehta and his skilled medical team at LoneStar Gastroenterology can help. 

Understanding IBS

This uncomfortable disorder disrupts the connection between the brain and your gut, resulting in a more sensitive digestive system that affects how the muscles in your intestines retract. As a result, you can develop symptoms like abdominal pain, bloating, flatulence, distension, constipation, and diarrhea. Estimates show that up to 10% of the global population struggles with this disorder, and while it is more common in people under 50, anyone can find themselves dealing with this illness.

How anxiety affects it

IBS doesn’t cause anxiety, but people dealing with it and other mood disorders can suffer an increased risk of this abdominal condition. Research also indicates many similar genetic pathways between the two conditions, but it isn’t uncommon for people to deal with both at the same time. According to Dr. Edward Blanchard, professor of psychology at the State University of New York at Albany, the most common mental illness IBS patients deal with is generalized anxiety disorder (GAD, about 60%), while as many as 20% struggle with depression.

There are several theories on the connection between the two conditions, including emotional responses that trigger stress, which affects pain in your gut, and IBS making people more sensitive to emotional issues with stress affecting the immune system.

How it can be treated

If you’re dealing with both anxiety and IBS, there are several ways to manage both:


Lifestyle changes and medications can make life easier when dealing with IBS. You can make changes, including eating fiber and high in probiotic foods, avoiding gluten, exercising, following a FODMAP diet, and reducing stress. Medications that can help include laxatives, fiber supplements, anti diarrhea medications, antidepressants, and antispasmodics (for relaxing muscles).

Anxiety disorders

Medications and therapies can help reduce stress related to anxiety and other symptoms. These include mindfulness training, acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), relaxation techniques, support groups, beta blockers, anxiety medications, and antidepressants.

Anxiety can make dealing with IBS more difficult, but treatment is available, and we can help. Call or use our online booking feature to make an appointment today with Dr. Mehta and LoneStar Gastroenterology and get relief from IBS.