If you have IBS or some other medically unexplained digestive disorder and your objective has been to control your symptoms, then you have been unknowingly and unintentionally creating more stress for your body, making it harder, not easier, for your body to heal.
As a licensed psychologist specializing in the treatment of Irritable Bowel Syndrome and other digestive problems, my aim is to help people heal and recover from IBS or whatever functional GI problem they may have. In last week’s blog, I talked about how trying to control your digestive symptoms puts you on a mental and physiological roller coaster ride. Today, I want to talk about the meaning behind this roller coaster ride. Simply put, being on the roller-coaster ride of trying to control your IBS symptoms is a function of a stress response that is only worsening your symptoms.
Your IBS Is a Threat
You might try thinking of your attempts to control IBS symptoms like this: We don’t typically need to control things that feel good to us, right? We can relax and just enjoy them. It is when things feel threatening to our bodies that we react with the urge to control.
Your symptoms are undoubtedly a threat to your life. They are a threat to your day-to-day functioning. They might be a threat to your relationships. They’re a threat to your enjoyment of food. They’re a threat to feeling good and living your life the way you would like to. Your IBS is indeed a threat. So it’s only natural and normal for your body to react with stress in response to that threat. That stress is a response to your symptoms and a response to the entire experience of having IBS in the first place. Unfortunately, a stress response impacts your whole body — your thinking, your mood, and your gut — making it harder for your body to heal.
Shift Out of the Fight Response to Heal IBS
Stress puts the body in gear to fight or flee a dangerous, threatening situation. We call this response “fight or flight.” The desire to control your symptoms is really a manifestation of your body’s natural fight response — it’s you fighting for control of your own body! The fight response is a natural, normal way to respond to having IBS symptoms. After all, it makes perfect sense that you would want to have control of your gut, the part of your body causing you suffering.
The problem is that none of us actually has conscious control over our digestion — that’s just not the way our bodies are wired. So, trying to control your digestion is a waste of valuable time and energy. In order to harness that energy and direct it towards healing, you have to shift out of the stress response that is driving your need to control your symptoms and your body.
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Healing is a process. You know the destination. I’ve got the roadmap.
Don’t hate your guts. Instead, discover how to heal your body.