Treatment for Anxiety related IBS

Since young, I wanted to be a mum, having the perfect marriage, my own house, and lots of friends. Before having my daughter I was such a sociable, happy, confident girl with no worries. My mum would do everything for me, such as the shopping, washing, paying bills, etc. When I became pregnant (planned) at age 18, my mum lost respect for me. She said: “you’ve not lived yet”. This was was true but I was ready to be a mum.

How did my anxiety start?

I was 22 weeks pregnant, I and my partner moved into emergency accommodation. Before I was 35 weeks we were moved 2 times, and this was when my anxiety started. I was so stressed about moving, having a baby, and then being diagnosed with preeclampsia. On top of that, after staying at my mum’s house for a break. We went back to the flat the next morning to discover that we had been burgled.

The upset was not the loss of the material objects but the fact that; some heartless human, got into our home, and that was enough to tip me over the edge. I started getting symptoms of IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), which included diarrhoea, tummy ache and, constipation.

I had never experienced this before. The baby came along, and It got worse. Ryan was working most of the time, and I wouldn’t see the light of day. Struggling to even do the food shopping, see my family, and attend my maths classes.

IBS is a common disorder that affects the large intestine. Within the UK it affects about two in 10 people, the symptoms can include

  • Bloating
  • Gas
  • Stomach Spasms
  • Fatigue
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhoea

IBS can be caused by many things including food allergy Intolerances, stress, anxiety, depression, hormones, not enough exercise, lack of sleep, and diet. It can be prevented, and the symptoms can be lessened. You should keep a food diary to see what food or drinks upset your digestive system. Get some mental health support for any anxieties or stressors that are in your life.

Stress relievers can include Yoga, CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy), meditation style mindfulness, etc. If your symptoms are affecting your day to day life there are support groups of people with the same problem that you could talk to. You can also practice mindfulness by using techniques from knowledge found in books, etc.

How to improve your IBS?

To help yourself get better you could experiment with your body by reducing the amount of fibrous foods in your diet to see if it helps, or perhaps switching animal milks to a plant-based one as long as you do not have an allergy to the following: soya, oat, rice, etc — these kinds of milk are a lot more healthy for consumption because they are lower in fats and bad cholesterol.

Too much dairy can worsen your diarrhoea because of the number of fats that it contains, many people do not know it but their issues are actually because of an underlying dairy intolerance. Reduce your intake of fatty meat, trying healthier options such as tofu, soya mince, vegetarian alternatives and overall limiting yourself on chilli could help.

Having children is one of life’s biggest stressors for me, especially when you suffer from mental health and bowel problems. Getting out with my two when having a flare-up is almost impossible. The constant worry of embarrassing myself in public, or needing to urgently go to the toilet.

I would rather stay in bed all day till the stomach storm goes away. In my struggles though, I have found a very helpful card called the ‘just can’t wait card‘ it is free and you get it in the post a day or two later depending on your location. I can now take it with me in my purse and if I really need to go then I can show the card to any shop to be able to use their toilet. I haven’t had to use it much but it is reassuring to know that it is there. After having it for nearly 4 years I have found out what my triggers and helpers are and I will list them below.

Foods that help IBS symptoms

Unfortunately, the more unhealthy processed white rice, and white bread are great helpers because they bulk everything up. Slightly Unripe bananas are beneficial, and so is drinking plenty of water and herbal tea. Herbal Tea that I find the most helpful is peppermint, ginger, turmeric, and chamomile.

Foods that worsen IBS symptoms

This is sad for me, because I love these food and drinks. First is coffee, I find that coffee makes me feel really happy but sets off instant gas and bloating. It has got to be one of the worst triggers for me, which caffeine could be responsible. Caffeine causes your blood to rush around the body quicker than normal and makes your colon 60% more active than water would.

Most people know that beans and legumes cause flatulence for anyone, even for those who don’t suffer from IBS. If you do suffer from it, those baked beans for your lunch is a bad idea. They would likely cause some gastrointestinal discomfort, as well as general bloating, cramps and diarrhoea.

Apples, even half of one gives me a tummy ache. This could be because of the natural sweeteners called sorbitol and pectin that don't digest well. Pharmaceutical companies have used the potent extract in laxative medications. Other common triggers are raw onion, raw garlic and takeaways that have a high-fat content.

Medication treatment for IBS

I mostly medicate with Imodium to avoid anything embarrassing happening and have found that it works at stopping a flare up. It does not help with the cramps though, which is why sometimes I also take mebeverine which is an antispasmodic that allows your muscles to relax. The doctor may prescribe peppermint capsules which sometimes are helpful and other times can cause unnecessary heartburn and fresh breathe.

What is Imodium used for?

It’s mainly used to treat short bouts of diarrhoea, but it can be effective for treating ‘ Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, IBS, IBD (Inflammatory Bowel disease). Travelers tend to pack it for a holiday trip  just in case they get a stomach bug on their journey. It works by slowing your digestive system into a regular rhythm. Your body is then able to absorb more fluids progressing to better stool consistency. 

It works on average for around 10.8 hours depending on the severity of the condition and how high a dose you took. The dose states that you should never take any more than 8 mg a day. Unless your doctor advises otherwise too. You should ensure to drink lots of water whilst taking this medication to help its effectiveness. Imodium instants provide relief from diarrhoea. These tablets dissolve instantly on your tongue. Also helping to restore the absorption of fluids into your body which helps your intestines.

How long does Imodium take to work?

Some of the tablets work instantly, however, each pack may be different and will vary. Do not take for long term medical issues, you should resolve the actual issue by consulting with your doctor, nutritionist or health professional. It should be taken as advised. It can be bought over the counter in pharmacies, supermarkets, and online.

Imodium Instants Diarrhoea Relief (6 Tablets)
Imodium Instants Diarrhoea Relief (6 Tablets)

My addiction to Imodium

I quickly became recluse, unable to go out unless I used Imodium which my health visitor recommended. The anxiety 4 years later has not left me and suffering from anxiety as a mother is very difficult. The IBS has improved, and I have been out without the tablets. It’s just that it forever cripples me, worrying I won’t be able to control my bowels. Doctors did advise I go on anti-anxiety, and depressants but I denied them and kept fighting.

Having two children, and a partner that works from home makes things nowadays quite hard. I try my hardest every day to get out for my children’s sake, and see family. I do get out a lot more than I did, so I am proud of the changes that I have made.

Since having CBT my symptoms have changed, I was back to my old self. I was able to get on a bus and sit the whole journey without panic.

I have conquered many fears and gone back to learning to drive. Which I gave up because I was so anxious about leaving the house and even getting in the car. Suffering from anxiety is one of the hardest things I have ever had to face, but I will get through it. As I learn more about my self, techniques to deal with it, it is getting more manageable.

How to treat anxiety?

There are four main ways to treat anxiety, and you should know that there is no one size fits all approach. Some things will work better for others. Let’s discuss these types of treatment.

1. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)

Cognitive-behavioural therapy is usually used to help sufferers with: phobias, anxiety, and depression but has also been known to help many other mental health conditions. It works by changing the fight or flight response cycle of ‘panic worry > physical reaction > leading to more worry and even worsening of symptoms.

Thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations and actions that are involved with anxiety can be managed better with these practices, taught within CBT. You can study techniques through one to one therapy sessions with a counsellor, self-help information online or by reading books on the topic.

CBT aims to help you combat fears, it helps you create an understanding of why you feel the way you do. Exposure therapy is used as a means of exposing you to what you fear, and once you have completed that task you were worried about, you will not need to worry anymore. Starting with small goals and building up your confidence to conquer bigger challenges that you couldn’t have imagined yourself doing.

Unlike other treatments, this therapy deals with your current problems, rather than focusing on issues from your past. It looks for practical ways to improve your state of mind on a daily basis, that would cause no danger or harm to you. This is a preferred way to helping yourself, and should always be given a chance before using medications.

What to expect from a session?

Usually, you will have an appointment once every 1-2 weeks. Lasting around 30 minutes to talk about your fears and phobias. Each session you will set goals towards combating the anxiety, and not running away from it. You will be expected to try, and attempt the changes while you are away from the session. This is to make every day that little bit easier.

My experiences with CBT

I started getting anxiety about 6 years ago, I let it control my life for a long time. Eventually, I started having CBT sessions over the phone. Which in my opinion is not helpful as helpful as meeting face to face.

Seeing someone is much better, and being totally honest, it is harder for them to see how you are truly feeling over the phone. I have only had a few sessions but it gets me out. It also helps me to fight my worry about having to get the bus. Remember that you cannot get better overnight, you need to work hard, be scared, be overwhelmed, for change to happen.

Try to follow steps every day to grow stronger, and start being you again. Since having the treatment my IBS has improved. My key worker has relieved a lot of stress from my past and I am on the mend. Though my 6 weeks of therapy is finished I will continue to use the practices that I learnt with her in the future. I don’t want to be back in the bad place that I was before. 

I recommend getting yourself a book on the topic. Writing some goals up of things you would like to accomplish. Take small steps at a time, slowly stepping out of your comfort zone. You can do this. Reading is amazing because you will learn so much. Put yourself first.

Rewire your anxious brain (paperback)

 Rewire Your Anxious Brain (Paperback)

Understand your anxiety better so that you can learn to rid it from your life for good. Rewire your anxious brain to successfully remove fear, panic, anxiety and worry. This book is recommended by therapists and if you read it, it will help you. 

2. Mindfulness

Mindfulness: A practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world

Mindfulness: A practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world (paperback) book

“This best selling book includes a CD of guided meditations.”

One of the most wonderful practices of mental well being. Mindfulness is a type of non-religious meditation that can help you channel your body through the breath. It can help remove negative thoughts also known as automatic negative thoughts (ANT’s.) The popularity of mindfulness is growing. You can learn how to do it nowadays via paperback books, audiobooks, videos online, and even a phone app.

I attended a mindfulness group to support someone who was suffering from alcoholism and found the experience very moving. It helped me find complete relaxation by removing unnecessary stress and making me feel more in tune with the world.

3. Self-help

This type of treatment is revolved around you helping yourself get better. It is the act of doing things that you are worried about. Start small and do something that scares you and then build up your self-confidence and expose yourself to the situations that you fear. If for example, you suffer from social anxiety, make it your mission to go to the shops and start a conversation with the shopkeeper.

If you suffer from black and white thinking and are scared to leave the house, then start by taking small trips and afterwards praise yourself because you are brave and did amazing. Part of self-help is not beating yourself up when you get it wrong, but praising yourself when you do good. Read books about anxiety and help yourself understand your problem in a new light to change the way that you think.

Lots of people suffer from anxiety daily, remember that you are not alone and more importantly you are not broken. Studies show that 13% of the whole population suffers from anxiety at some point in their life. It is simply an out of date survival instinct that is not needed as much today.

4. Medications

This is usually the last resort when you have tried everything else. You must not self medicate as this could be dangerous. Instead, you should make a doctors appointment and they will evaluate what is the best option for you in their professional opinion. Whilst GP’s are considered experts, they don’t always get it right and they do have to follow certain guidelines.

From experience, general practitioners do not have much experience in regards to mental health and are usually better at resolving more physical problems related to health. The medications don’t always work and in some cases can make you feel worse but this varies from medication to medication and on the individual person.

For example, if you suffer from IBS, you may find Imodium useful because it can remove the worry of needing the toilet when you are out in public. The problem with the medication is that it is only a temporary fix and does not actually solve the problem directly at the source. Especially considering that a lot of people that suffer from irritable bowel syndrome have symptoms related to their lifestyle and the foods that they consume.

One of the most common medications that your doctor may prescribe you is called propranolol which is a beta-blocker that lowers your blood pressure and can give you instant relief. The reason it's frowned upon is that medication is only a temporary measure, and when you stop taking the medication, in many cases the anxiety can come back.

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