Depression – can it cause IBS? Or vice versa?
Article by Sian
People suffering from depression may find themselves experiencing symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
It seems as common as IBS these days, if not more so, and has it's roots in many things. Irritable Bowel Syndrome is almost as complex, since it may be triggered by an illness, such as gastroenteritis, diet, or stress.
While not all depressed people suffer from IBS, the syndrome can cause it. The diarrhea, constipation and nausea all mean we begin to live our lives around those symptoms.
We do not want to travel if we know we are going to need a restroom frequently, constipation causes misery, stomach cramps are incredibly painful and people who feel pea-green sick all the time do not want to go anywhere at all.
The longer we live with IBS and the more we become prisoners of our guts, the more we begin to feel resentful and angry. If you would love to go on holiday, or to spend a day out with friends and find yourself making excuses not to go, then IBS does 'depress' our lives.
When writing this article, one memory came back to me very clearly. In my childhood, just after Christmas they would begin to show 'The Holiday Programme,' on television.
This was in the 1970's, before cheap flights and deals, and the idea of 'Winter Sun' or going abroad for your summer vacation was still very glamorous.
In the cold, short days after the holidays season, the images on the t.v. of white sand beaches, palm trees and turquoise seas even made me feel warm.
I would sit by the fire watching, dreaming of these distant places and visualize myself traveling to them. I believed I would and looked forward to it, it was one goal I had as a child, to travel extensively.
As it is, I have never been outside the UK. I love atlas's and maps, other cultures fascinate me -- and seeing historical monuments such as the Pyramids of Giza and the Great Wall of China remains something I do in my head.
I have never walked down a beach in the Caribbean or seen moonlight on the Taj Mahal save in my mind. That, more than anything has depressed me.
Yet it is not only long journeys which have become impossible, but even getting on a train or bus. Even in cars I can panic if I do not know the driver very well.
The jail of our bodies, the pain, the worry and the lifestyle imposed on us by IBS can indeed be very depressing.
We hear people speak so casually of travelling, of going out with friends, to a restaurant or bar, to play golf or to the cinema, and we know we cannot.
Even when our IBS is not chronic, if we start worrying about the route and the availability of restrooms, it probably will become chronic.
We may also begin to feel guilty that our restrictions are indirectly affecting our partner or family, that our friends will vanish since we seem to make no effort to see them.
Anti-depressants and IBS
I have taken anti-depressants during my years of IBS, although they were not prescribed for it.
I cannot state whether they did, or did not make any difference. They did not tackle the root cause of my stress and anxiety, therefore I still suffered from attacks of irritable Bowel as usual.
There are some views which link abuse to IBS - which I believe is all part of the stress/IBS factor. It is not clear yet whether some doctors may prescribe anti-depressants to help the symptoms, but it follows that if we become less stressed and depressed and anxious, our IBS is likely to become less severe.
That is certainly true in my case, even though the amount of times I have forgotten my stomach due to feeling happy is but a handful.
If you have found that you have become depressed over the pain and limitations of IBS, then it may be worth speaking to your doctor. There are many different anti-depressants and they may believe a course would be beneficial, although the taking of them and the decision should always be your own.
Alternative Medicines for Depression
For those who do not wish to take prescribed anti-depressants, but feel that they need something, there are certain natural remedies for depression which may prove beneficial.
St. John's Wort is a herb which has been the subject of several trials and is said to be helpful in cases of moderate depression.
I began to take it several months ago, daily, and do believe it has an effect, without any of the side effects.
I also take Magnesium, since the Western diet is often very deficient in this mineral, and it is recommended for nerves and anxiety. The essential oil Clary Sage is said to have 'euphoric' properties, and after using it, I think that is true.
(Please note Clary Sage should not be used by pregnant or lactating women.)
If you suffer from IBS and find yourself becoming depressed with all the things you cannot do, as well as the pain and embarrassment, then I believe you are in the majority, and something to help the depression may also work in reverse to ease the IBS.
Return from Depression to Living with IBS
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