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Stress triggers irritable bowel syndrome

Stress and anxiety levels raise the likelihood of developing irritable bowel syndrome.

Stress triggers irritable bowel syndrome

Stress and anxiety levels raise the likelihood of developing irritable bowel syndrome. People with irritable bowel syndrome (known as IBS) suffer chronic discomfort with cramping, diarrhoea or constipation. The causes of IBS are unclear and there has been debate whether it is mostly due to psychological factors or biological triggers, or perhaps a combination. Researchers from the University of Southampton in the UK looked at the impact of psychological factors on the risk of IBS following an episode of gastroenteritis. They studied 620 patients who had no history of IBS or any serious bowel condition but came down with gastroenteritis caused by bacteria called Campylobacter. The subjects completed a questionnaire at the time of the infection to assess mood and personality factors, and follow-up questionnaires were administered at 3 and 6 months after the episode. Forty-nine subjects were classified as having IBS at both follow-up visits. Higher levels of perceived stress, anxiety, and negative illness beliefs at the time of infection were all identified as risk factors for IBS. By contrast, depression and perfectionism did not seem to increase the risk of IBS. The findings suggest that gastroenteritis may trigger the symptoms, but cognition, behaviour and emotions may help to prolong and maintain them over time.
Gut,
February 2007
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