Written by Kimberley Gittens, RD on behalf of Rachel McBryan, RD
Your mental health can have a major impact on your gut health, and subsequently on your IBS. Stress and anxiety can trigger an increase in gut inflammation, and disrupt the careful balance of beneficial bacteria in your gut. Overall, this can lead to an increase in GI symptoms such as bloating, constipation and diarrhea.
Mental Health and IBS
Living with IBS can have an impact on your mental health, and your mental health can have an impact on your IBS. Whether it’s in the early days when you are first learning to navigate a new condition on your own, or years later when you’re experiencing flare ups, irritable bowel syndrome can affect your mood and mental health.
Research has found that the same genetic makeup that increases your risk of IBS, also increases your risk of other conditions such as common mood and anxiety disorders. Additionally, surveys show that people with IBS have a higher prevalence of mental health concerns, than others.
4 Ways to Support Your Mental Health, and IBS
The good news is that there are ways to help improve your mental health, like exercise, relaxation, and diet. Supporting your mental health comes with other health benefits, such as improved GI symptoms.
Regular exercise is a great way to support your mental health. Research shows that exercise can help reduce stress and anxiety, and even boost your self-confidence. In fact, some studies studies showed that the physiological benefits from exercise are similar to benefits derived from psychotherapy.
Exercise can look different for everyone, and can even be a few minutes of physical activity. It can include walking, running, yoga, gardening, strength training and so much more. Check out my article on exercise for IBS to learn more about the mental and physical benefits.
One of the best ways you can support your mental health is by taking a few minutes a day to yourself. Relaxation can include meditation, reading with a good book, indulging in a bubble bath, or getting creative such as drawing or painting.
A balanced, nutritious diet is essential for supporting your mental health. There are many nutrients that you can include in your diet to support your mental health, and reduce GI symptoms.
Some studies have shown fibre supplementation to reduce anxiety, and improve mental health in people with IBS. However, there is not enough evidence at this time to confirm whether or not fibre supplementation would be a suitable therapy.
You can learn more about fibre from our blog articles.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids can have a positive impact on your mental health. These fatty acids can increase your brain’s serotonin production, and have been shown to reduce anxiety.
Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids include, walnuts, fatty fish and flaxseeds. Find more omega-3 rich foods here.
Antioxidants are substances found in food that protect our bodies and cells from damage that is caused by free radicals. Additionally, recent evidence suggests that polyphenols (a type of antioxidants) support brain health, and regulate systemic inflammation.
Check out the article on antioxidants to learn where to find them in food.
Probiotics-rich food can also support the gut-brain connection, and your mental health. Some probiotic-rich foods to try include, yogurt, tempeh, cottage cheese and kefir.
Learn more about probiotics and their role in gut, and mental health here.
Getting enough quality sleep is essential to both your mental health and your gut health. Research shows that poor sleep can impact your ability to cope with stress and increase your risk of mental health concerns such as depression and anxiety. Getting enough quality sleep can not only reduce your risk of mental health issues, but also help reduce GI symptoms.
Get Help Identifying Your IBS-Triggers
Identifying your IBS triggers allows you to eliminate them from your diet, and prevent flares up and post-meal discomfort. Book a FREE discovery call today to learn more about working with a Registered Dietitian to manage your IBS!
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Yan, R., Andrew, L., Marlow, E., Kunaratnam, K., Devine, A., Dunican, I. C., & Christophersen, C. T. (2021). Dietary fibre intervention for gut microbiota, sleep and mental health in adults with irritable bowel syndrome: A scoping review. In Nutrients (Vol. 13, Issue 7). MDPI. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13072159