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IBS and Anxiety

Research is linking gut and mental health problems revealing more and more studies that highlight the importance of a holistic approach.

The psychological burden associated with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is high, with estimates that up to 60 percent of sufferers experience comorbid psychiatric illnesses such as anxiety, and almost 40 percent contemplate suicide.1

Rectal hypersensitivity has been proposed as an IBS biomarker, with recent studies suggesting also that the intestinal microbiota of IBS patients is altered and that these differences may be related to the sensory dysfunction in IBS.2

Another study compared mixed soluble/insoluble fibres in 72 people diagnosed with chronic constipation. Both interventions were equally as effective at increasing the number of bowel motions. However, this study also found that the prescribed fibre significantly improved anxiety, physical discomfort, worries and concerns and obsessive compulsiveness.3

Specific herbs also showed good results in improving bowel activity as well as increasing brain GABA levels.4

The ability of the gut to move properly (motility) affects digestion and absorption of nutrients

Factors that affect how your gut functions include:

Antibiotics:  may produce changes in intestinal motility.  Exposure of the gastrointestinal lining to antibiotics can cause direct responses in the nervous system which services and surrounds our gut.  These local effects may affect brain function and behaviour via specific spinal and vagal pathways.2 While over prescription of antibiotics has been in the news, their use in animal husbandry tends to be avoided – just another reason to ensure you consume only organic meat, chicken and wild-caught fish.

Stress: changes gut motility and behaviour due to up regulating the immune system, causing inflammation and releasing nerve activating chemicals.  Chemicals released by the central nervous system influence gut motility, irritation and sensitivity of the gut lining and, ultimately increased gut permeability.3

Periodontal disease: pathogens (bacteria) in the oral cavity can affect the large intestine and alter gut motility.  It is believed that oral bacteria can affect the gut microbiome increasing free radical damage.4


The above factors affect not only adults but also children.  A healthy body requires a healthy digestive system and it is never too early to seek advice and guidance from a qualified naturopath in this regard. There are many factors that influence our digestive health – diet, lifestyle, exposure to toxins as well as past traumas. At True Medicine we provide individualised assessment and support to ensure optimal outcomes.  Arrange a consultation by calling us on 07 5530 1863.


  1. Ballou S. Psychosocial impact of irritable bowel syndrome: A brief review. World J Gastrointest Pathophysiol. 2015;6(4):120. doi:10.4291/wjgp.v6.i4.120.
  2. Azpiroz F, Dubray C, Bernalier-Donadille A, et al. Effects of scFOS on the composition of fecal microbiota and anxiety in patients with irritable bowel syndrome: a randomized, double blind, placebo controlled study. Neurogastroenterol Motil. 2017;29(2):e12911. doi:10.1111/nmo.12911.
  3. Erdogan A, Rao SSC, Thiruvaiyaru D, et al. Randomised clinical trial: mixed soluble/insoluble fibre vs. psyllium for chronic constipation. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2016;44(1):35-44. doi:10.1111/apt.13647.
  4. Shakeri A, Sahebkar A, Javadi B. Melissa officinalis L. – A review of its traditional uses, phytochemistry and pharmacology. J Ethnopharmacol. 2016;188:204-228. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2016.05.010.