Whenever I was stressed, anxious, or nervous, I would get a churning feeling in the pit of my stomach. It’s common to feel queasy or experience “butterflies” when you’re on edge, but some signs can suggest that these symptoms are caused by something more serious. If stress prevents you from eating or causes you to vomit, it’s likely that you’re one of every five people who have Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is very common, and can typically be treated through home remedies and dietary changes. Yet in some cases, IBS symptoms can increase and worsen if they are not acknowledged or treated. Only 10 percent of people with IBS ever mention their symptoms to their doctor, despite the fact that IBS is the leading diagnosis by gastroenterologists. Typical symptoms include being unable to eat or feeling nauseous when stressed, bloating or experiencing stomach pressure after eating, and changes in bowel movements based on changes in mental or emotional well-being. If your stress goes to your stomach, it’s more than likely that you have or will develop some level of IBS within your lifetime.
I never thought anything of my stomach issues until the symptoms escalated to the point I was unable to complete daily tasks such as eating and going to work. I had recently gone through extreme emotional stress, but had no idea it would affect my life so severely. Suddenly, I was bloating after every meal, my stomach distending so much it looked as if I was in the first trimester of a pregnancy. I was experiencing such extreme pressure in my stomach that I had to lie down for up to three hours after eating. I began vomiting up to seven times a day, even at work. Eventually, my digestive system shut down completely, and I was unable to have regular bowel movements, and almost a week could pass without any movement. Halfway through that summer, I had resorted to eating nothing but crackers and rice, unable to eat anything else without being bedridden.
Because IBS cannot be seen through X-Rays and other tests, it took months for me to finally get a diagnosis. The uncertainty of what was wrong with me was scariest of all. I had missed several days of work going to the hospital or doctor’s, and was going to enter my sophomore year of college soon. I knew I couldn’t live on campus if I was this sick. At last, I spoke to a gastroenterologist and was diagnoses with an extreme case of IBS. While most IBS cases can be treated through use of laxatives (if it’s constipation-based), changes in diet, and over-the-counter drugs to prevent diarrhea (if not constipation-based), I had to go on prescribed medication.
However, in my extreme case, more help was needed. It turns out the same chemical imbalance that occurs in the brain during depression can be found in the digestive system in extreme cases of IBS. To rebalance these chemicals, I had to begin taking 10mg of Paxel every night . Since then, I have been able to each regularly and have not been vomiting. My bowel movements have returned to normal.
Talking to your doctor about the ways your body copes with stress is important. Checking if you have IBS or symptoms of IBS can help prevent extreme flare-ups like the one I experienced, and prepare how you will react physically and mentally to stress in order to keep your digestive system functioning correctly.