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Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Health Center

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Anxiety During Illness May Trigger IBS

Pushing Self During Intestinal Infection Also Raises Risk of IBS, Study Shows
WebMD Health News

Feb. 26, 2007 -- People who are overly anxious or refuse to slow down during a bout of food poisoning or other infection-related gastrointestinal illness may be prone to developing irritable bowel syndrome, according to a new study.

The findings reinforce the view that emotional factors like stress and anxiety contribute to the chronic bowel condition. But they also suggest that the way a person deals with acute illness plays a role.

Researchers found that people who pushed themselves too hard when they had bacterial gastroenteritis developed irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) more often than people who took it easy.

Gastroenteritis is inflammation of the digestive tract that can result from a viral, bacterial, or parasitic infection.

“Instead of resting up, these driven people kept going until they collapsed in a heap,” study co-author Rona Moss-Morris, PhD, tells WebMD. “The gastroenteritis triggered the symptoms, but this ‘all-or-nothing’ behavior may have helped prolong them.”

1 in 5 Americans

Roughly one in five Americans has IBS, a chronic condition characterized by abdominal pain, bloating, and either constipation, diarrhea, or both, according to the American College of Gastroenterology (ACG).

Four out of five cases occur among women, and symptoms usually begin in late adolescence or early adulthood.

Though the disorder remains a mystery, previous studies have shown that acute gastrointestinal illness, such as a bout of food poisoning, seems to trigger IBS in some people.

In an effort to determine if psychological response to biological illness plays a role in IBS, Moss-Morris and colleagues followed 620 people who had confirmed gastroenteritis caused by a bacterial infection.

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