A person with a chaotic scribble in their brain and gut

Stress and IBS

Last updated: July 2022

For years when doctors would tell me stress could be a big factor in my IBS-D, I always said no way. I have had IBS, if I can remember. You surely are not having IBS due to stress during your childhood, right? That is what I thought anyway. The only time I have not had symptoms was while I was pregnant. Anyone who knows me knows that was one of the most stressful parts of my life. Going through a breakup, handling a pregnancy, and raising a baby alone, you would think my stress was through the roof because it was. But my IBS went away. To me, this proved even more that stress was not my issue.

Stress over the years

These last 6 years for me have been an emotional rollercoaster. I lost my dad, one of my best friends, and countless family members due to age, COVID, and unknown reasons. A pandemic, career change, moving back to Tennessee to go back to Illinois 8 months later and again back to Tennessee.

I recently learned that stress DOES play a huge factor in my IBS symptoms. Break-ups are hard for most. No one ever wants to go through it. Navigating living together, with a child, after a breakup, even when it is civil, is one of the hardest things I have ever done. I have had a huge spike in my symptoms, making most days debilitating. I have not been able to leave the house due to worrying about what will happen if I am out and about and must go. Things most people never think about. What if I am in a store and cannot make it? What if I am in the car and cannot make it? Who wants to have to clean that up or deal with the embarrassment because I know I don't?

Managing my IBS

I had a revelation recently. My daughter was heading to Disney with her school for a week, and I was really having a hard time. Not only because it was the farthest she had ever been away from me but because that meant me and her dad would be in the house together for a week without her. We get along okay, but it just is hard for me. My sister called me and asked me to come to spend the week with her instead. This worked out great because I got to see my family and enjoy Disney, and there was no awkwardness between her dad and me.

I was not prepared for the first time in 15 years, and I had a week with no IBS symptoms. I stopped a year or so ago taking medications like Imodium to control the symptoms because I hate taking something if it is not necessary. Granted, if I know I must be out of the house, I may bring it just in case, but I don’t take it daily like I used to.

This may sound super silly to some, but for me, not having 10 or more rounds of diarrhea in a day is unheard of. For me, to go more than one day without symptoms has never happened until now. I moved back home. Quite literally, my childhood home. I have been back almost a week and am seeing a difference already. Sometimes, letting others take some of your stress can make a huge difference.

Have you noticed stress causes more symptoms for you as well?

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