Those who live with irritable bowel syndrome may wonder if IBS predisposes them to other conditions. As researchers strive to better understand the cause of IBS, they have also sought to determine if there may be a correlation between IBS and mental health conditions such as depression.
Several studies show that there is a direct correlation between your gut and your brain. Before diving deeper into that connection, let’s learn more about each of these conditions.
What is IBS?
Irritable bowel syndrome is a gastrointestinal disorder that results in abdominal cramps and irregular bowel habits such as diarrhea or constipation. Though the exact cause of this condition is unknown, it is clear that the symptoms result from disruptions in the digestive tract of the large intestine. Due to the brain-gut connection, changes to your gut bacteria, or microbiome, can contribute to anxiety and depression symptoms.
What is depression?
Depression is a mood disorder that can result from various factors such as genetics, traumatic or life-changing events, and chemical changes in the brain. Some of the primary symptoms of depression include loss of pleasure or motivation, changes in sleep and diet, and overwhelming feelings of worthlessness or sadness.
Can IBS and depression overlap?
As science has continues to advance and impact the field of medicine, we have gained a deeper understanding of how the brain and gut interact. There is a strong bidirectional and biological connection between them known as the gut-brain axis.
IBS does not appear to directly cause depression, but it seems that many people experience both simultaneously. Since there is a connection between the mind and the digestive tract, it makes sense that someone diagnosed with IBS would also experience negative emotional and psychological changes. This connection could also explain a link between IBS and anxiety.
It is essential to remember that every individual is unique, and each person’s experience of these conditions will be nuanced. One study estimates that 30% of those diagnosed with will also report symptoms of depression. It is possible to treat both of these illnesses effectively with combined forms of medicinal and behavioral therapy.
Is there an effective treatment for both conditions?
As always, it is important to consult with your healthcare provider to discuss changes in your treatment plan. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a scientific approach that can help patients cope with conditions like IBS and depression. This treatment seeks to help people recognize negative thinking patterns and behavioral habits, and replace them with new thought patterns and coping mechanisms.
Studies indicate that CBT can be an effective form of treatment in reducing symptoms of IBS and depression. Given the connection that we now know exists between the mind and the gut, we can see how positive changes in thinking can lead to reduced symptoms of IBS and depression for those who may suffer from both illnesses.
If you deal with symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and depression and are unsure about what to do next, here are two practical steps you can take: discuss the use of CBT for IBS and depression with your doctor, and check in with them about Mahana. This app helps you learn coping skills that may reduce symptoms you experience with IBS specifically.
Depression and IBS can interfere with your everyday life, but you don’t have to suffer from these illnesses alone. Thankfully, new forms of treatment and medications are constantly being explored and discovered for both of these diseases. Talk with your doctor to see what options may best suit your lifestyle and wellness goals.