I’m someone who has been struggling with chronic anxiety, Irritable Bowel Disorder (IBD), and Acid Reflux most of my life.
Maybe this is why I have always been interested in learning how to heal naturally. My anxiety, as well as, my GI issues started in childhood, as far back as I can remember. When I was seven years old I kept experiencing sharp pain on the right side of my body. It happened mostly during stressful times, such as the end of the school year when I had a lot of exams. Looking back, I have seen many doctors, yet they cannot find anything physically wrong with me, so I guess I have learned how to function with it.
At one point, doctors almost operated on me suspecting appendicitis, but fortunately decided that this was not the case. It seems I’ve always struggled with constipation. Unfortunately, my eating habits were not always the best, especially when I started college.
My daily schedule was full of classes all day long, and short breaks in between. Eating pizza was cheap, which I coupled with many cups of coffee. I have to forgive myself because I didn’t know any better back then. My dad, who suffered due to my mom’s nagging and controlling behavior, also had issues with acid reflux, and took medication until he passed away at age 52 in a hiking accident.
If you’ve read my past articles, then you know I was physically, emotionally, and sexually abused during my childhood and adolescence, and even as a young adult. It started in my family and then continued in many relationships until I learned how to heal myself.
All of this has negatively affected my GI health.
When I moved to the US in 1997 and realized that I had married an abusive husband who was also a gambling addict, that too, took a toll on my health. I remember during my first job in 1998, I kept getting nauseous and this lead to me believing that I was pregnant. Luckily, because of the circumstances that were happening in my personal life, this was not the case.
I really didn’t put two and two together until 2012 when extreme stress working at a toxic workplace caused a major outburst of my IBD/Acid Reflux. Every morning, for several months, I had to fight nausea. I finally saw a specialist and had an endoscopy performed.
From this, I was given a diagnosis of acute/chronic Gastritis. However, the only solution in Western medicine for this ailment is to take acid blockers instead of finding the root causes (anxiety, damaged stomach lining, bacteria etc.). Things got a bit better, but during stressful times, I would have to rely on acid blockers and eating a “BRAT” diet (bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast).
Finally, I started learning about Functional Medicine and about the connection between the gut and mood disorders, including anxiety.
This past June was very stressful because I had a deposition that was related to my car accident which took place in March 2016. This is what caused a relapse in my anxiety and IBD. For two weeks, I was barely able to eat and function at a good level.
More recently, I have been working on and off with a functional medicine doctor who recommended that I change to a ketogenic diet.
Things improved a bit, but I realized that something was still not right. I have been taking digestive enzymes and probiotics, but still without any consistent results. Therefore, my journey continues!
According to Harvard Health, “Given how closely the gut and brain interact, it becomes easier to understand why you might feel nauseated before giving a presentation or feeling intestinal pain during times of stress…. Psychosocial factors influence the actual physiology of the gut, as well as symptoms. In other words, stress (or depression or other psychological factors) can affect movement and contractions of the GI tract, make inflammation worse, or perhaps make you more susceptible to infection.” (1)
Furthermore, according to Dr. Edward Group DC, NP, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM, “The enteric nervous system has been referred to as a “second brain” because of its ability to operate autonomously and communicate with the central nervous system through the parasympathetic (i.e., via the vagus nerve) and sympathetic nervous systems.”
The article points out that “The belief that gut health is connected to mental well-being dates back more than a hundred years. In the early 1900’s, scientists and clinicians emphasized the relationship between gastrointestinal health and mental health. By 1930, opinions reversed, and it was thought that mental health disorders were an influencing factor in gastrointestinal disorders.” (2)
The “second brain” has a key role in producing serotonin, which is vital in stabilizing your mood.
Therefore, speaking personally, all my years of being on many different medications for anxiety and depression didn’t really help much. More likely, due to taking all kinds of medications for depression, anxiety, thyroid, and acid reflux, my stomach lining has been damaged, and possibly even lead to Leaky Gut Syndrome. This is, of course, something I’m hoping to rule out.
So, it’s no wonder that people who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and the associated cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, diarrhea, and constipation commonly suffer from depression and anxiety as well.
Dr. Edward Group discusses the experiment that supports the gut-anxiety connection. “The interaction between bacteria and depression and anxiety goes both ways. For example, in a 2009 study, male pup rats were stressed by separating them from their mothers, which altered the rat’s microbiota. Even though pups were separated for 11 days, and just for three hours daily, researchers concluded that this adverse event might increase vulnerability to disease later in life, ranging from depression to irritable bowel syndrome” (2)
So, what can we do? My suggestion is to seek a functional medicine doctor, a good nutritionist, and practice stress management skills. My daily routine consists of practicing breathing exercises as well as meditation (The Art of Living), yoga for my IBS (check out Gaia.com), watching what I eat and drink, taking digestive enzymes and probiotics, and getting a good night’s sleep. I have learned to avoid certain foods that trigger me, such as dairy, alcohol, caffeine, chocolate, tomatoes, and citrus fruit.
I hope that I will have more answers soon, and finally, a healthy, happy gut.
I teach all of the above content to my clients, and much more. Are you ready to get started on your own healing journey? I invite you to schedule a complimentary consultation with me.
Do you have any tips for maintaining a happy gut that did not get mentioned above? Please share them with us in the comments section below!
- (1) https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/the-gut-brain-connection.
- (2) https://www.globalhealingcenter.com/natural-health/link-between-depression-anxiety-and-gut-health/