Why Are My IBS Symptoms Worse In The Morning?
Last updated: June 2023
Many people experience their IBS symptoms worse first thing in the morning, even after a long and restful sleep. There are a few reasons to explain why:
Food and IBS morning symptoms
Eating is a common trigger for many people suffering with IBS. Eating is typically one of the first things people do when they wake up, and either the act of eating itself or the food choices they make can trigger pain, bloating or diarrhea.
When the food arrives in the stomach, it sends a signal down to the colon to contract, making room for the meal that will soon be sent down through the intestines. This is known as the “gastrocolic reflex,” which can stimulate visceral hypersensitivity - a characteristic of IBS which describes the experience of pain within the inner organs at a level that is more intense than normal - due to the contractions in the colon.
As well, certain types of food such as high-fat foods, caffeine and certain carbohydrates (especially those in liquid form, like juice) can provoke IBS symptoms. A large amount of liquid with simple carbohydrates can cause water to move quickly into the intestines, as your body is working to absorb the sugars. This can cause urgency and diarrhea. Try to notice whether certain foods make you feel better or worse, and work with your doctor or dietitian to determine a food plan to alleviate your symptoms.
Hormones, sleep, and IBS morning symptoms
Melatonin, otherwise known as the sleep hormone, plays an important part in gut physiology including the regulation of motility (movement), anti-inflammatory processes, and visceral (inner organ) sensation. This hormone is produced in two places: the brain and our gut. Our bodies produce melatonin throughout the night to help us sleep, but with IBS there is a miscommunication between our brain and our gut which can negatively affect the production of melatonin from our intestines. This can affect sleep quality and duration, as well as induce IBS symptoms first thing in the morning. Talk to your doctor to see if melatonin supplements can help to manage this issue.
Stress and IBS
It’s no secret that there is a strong link between emotional disorders, life stressors and IBS symptoms. There are so many nerves that start in the brain and connect to the gut (and vice versa), which is one of the main reasons why stress, depression and anxiety have such a big impact on our gut issues.
Think about it: when you’re scared to write a big test, nervous for the first day of work or worrying about a loved one, it’s considered normal to experience anything from butterflies and stomachaches to frequently running to the bathroom. While stress does not cause IBS, it can certainly exacerbate the symptoms of IBS and even interfere with the ability to digest certain carbohydrates or respond to certain treatments. If a person is feeling anxious about eating any kind of food, that anxiety may provoke IBS symptoms regardless of the types of foods being eaten. Talk to your doctor or psychologist about a stress management plan that works for you.
Do you suffer from IBS-C, IBS-D, or IBS-Mixed/Alternating?