“Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a gastrointestinal disorder. It primarily affects the large intestine and can lead to some of the following IBS symptoms:

  • Cramping
  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloating
  • Gas
  • Diarrhoea
  • Constipation”

There are numerous studies investigating the gut which is often dubbed as the second brain. These studies have shed a lot of light on the relationship between mental states, overall health, and their link with the gut. It can be no coincidence then that looking at the symptoms and treatment of IBS can give further insight into the overall mental and physical health of an individual.

It is not a big deal/ It is just stomach discomfort

IBS can cause people a good deal of discomfort and pain. While IBS is not deemed a serious health condition, living with daily bloating, pain and bathroom troubles can be uncomfortable to say the least. 

The truth is that IBS is also largely related with anxiety and stress. More often than not, flare ups are associated with periods of high stress.  Anxiety often affects the bowels, and it is reported that people who suffer from anxiety as well as those with IBS either have loose bowel movements or diarrhoea IBS-D or report feeling constipated IBS-C. 

When we put the activation of the freeze, fight, or flight response as well as the release of stress hormones (such as cortisol) into perspective, it is no surprise that the gut ‘shuts down’ – the body is preparing for survival hence, eating becomes a secondary problem. 

It only affects women

While it is true that women make up a larger proportion of the population affected by IBS the condition also affects men. It is unclear as to why IBS is more related to women, but recent studies have reported links with hormonal changes. Certain hormones implicated in the menstrual cycle have been shown to affect gut motility thus making the individual more susceptible to IBS-C.

There is a ‘right’ course of treatment

We are increasingly discovering how treatment should not be a one size fits all approach.  Given its nature and the fact that it is so different for those who experience it this is especially true with IBS. 

Another myth that goes hand in hand with this is the assumption that a specific ‘IBS diet’ can help. While it is true that paying attention to what you eat is important, there is no specific diet which is found to help with IBS. 

Fasting helps 

While it is understandable that with regular bloating and discomfort one would want to skip meals, this is not advised. Given that there are irregularities with the way the intestines are ‘behaving’, skipping meals will not make their functioning more regular. However, what can help is to eat smaller meals which contain foods that are not inflammatory in nature.

So, if you, or a loved one suffer from IBS it is advised that you seek medical guidance and that you consult with a nutritionist to see whether what foods would be best suited to minimize flare ups. 

Consulting with a psychologist or psychotherapist specializing in the area of health can also be a good way to learn to live with the condition. 

Education – gut health blog. The Functional Gut Clinic. (n.d.). Retrieved September 2, 2022, from https://thefunctionalgutclinic.com/blog/

If you think that you can benefit from professional support on this issue you can reach out here.

Jessica Saliba Thorne is a Gestalt psychotherapist. She has experience within the mental health field and sees adults with mental health difficulties, relationship issues and trauma at Willingness.


Fisher, M. (2022, May 3). Debunking 5 common myths about IBS. Brown & Toland Physicians. Retrieved September, 2022, from https://www.brownandtoland.com/blog/debunking-5-common-myths-about-ibs/ 

Why does IBS affect more women than men? Canadian Digestive Health Foundation. (2022, June 6). Retrieved September 2, 2022, from https://cdhf.ca/health-lifestyle/why-does-ibs-affect-more-women-than-men/