IBS and anxiety

How is anxiety connected to IBS?

Qualified Nutritionist (BSc, MSc, RNutr)
Ask Emma

An introduction to IBS and anxiety

Anxiety is a mental state of extreme apprehension and worry, which may lead to physical effects on our body. Feeling anxious is normal in certain situations. However, when it starts occurring on a more frequent basis, anxiety can become a health issue.

Anxiety can produce physical effects in the body. These include palpitations, sweating, dizziness, an upset stomach and diarrhoea. As experiencing anxiety may be a consequence of IBS, the shared symptoms as mentioned above may become more prominent.

Why does IBS cause anxiety?

Recurrent, unpredictable and unpleasant digestive issues, happening at inconvenient times, can lead to anxiety. Unfortunately IBS can result in a vicious cycle whereby the presence of our persistent digestive issues cause anxiety and this anxiety can then result in the onset of more punishing physical symptoms.

In this page, we focus on how IBS can cause anxiety. If you think your feelings of anxiety are causing IBS, please follow our link to read about psychological factors and IBS.

In the body there is a strong gut-brain connection. The gut is special in that it has its own nervous system known as the enteric nervous system (ENS). The ENS communicates efficiently with our brain. If our gut is unhappy or irritated it will affect the signals being sent to our brain and is even thought to affect our mood.

Managing your IBS may be the key to helping with the anxiety and breaking this cycle. Find out more at our treating IBS page.

What can I try at home for anxiety?

A few simple lifestyle changes may help to address anxiety linked with IBS.

  • Relax: Nowadays our busy lifestyles can give rise to more instances of anxiety and panic attacks. Take time out to focus on yourself, do things you enjoy and take your mind off the stresses of modern life. Whether it’s simply going for a walk, reading a good book or a specific technique such as yoga or meditation, relaxing our minds will have a positive effect on feelings of anxiousness
  • Cut out caffeine: Caffeine releases adrenaline in the body, which puts our bodies into ‘fight or flight’ mode. This state triggers pronounced physical responses such as sweating and heart palpitations, the nasty symptoms associated with anxiety we are trying to avoid! So swap your tea, coffee and soft drinks and try a new coffee substitute or a soothing herbal tea to avoid triggering an anxiety attack. Not to mention, caffeine may actually be a trigger for IBS itself - have a read of our IBS diet section to learn more
  • Exercise: Research has shown that exercise may have a positive effect on anxiety as physical exercise triggers the release of feel good neurotransmitters called endorphins, which can have a positive effect on your mood. Read more on our exercise for mood blog!
  • Plan ahead: Anxiety, especially when linked with IBS, can be made worse if we are disorganised and have not thought ahead. Get up early, plan out where you will be throughout the day and any precautions you need to take which will help you along the way. 

Guszkowska, M. (2004) Effects of exercise on anxiety, depression and mood. Psychiatria Polska 38(4):611-620

How can herbal remedies help me?

For people suffering from anxiety as a result of IBS, there are some herbal products out there specifically designed to help.

  • Molkosan: If IBS is causing anxiety it makes sense to try and tackle the underlying bowel issue first. Molkosan works well to create an environment to support the good bacteria in our gut, which if overtaken by any bad bacteria, is thought to irritate the gut and contribute to IBS symptoms.
  • Valerian and Hops: There are herbs that may help to address the anxiety directly. Valerian and Hops are useful for those who are prone to anxiety and help us maintain a normal response to stress.

How can my doctor help?

If home and herbal remedies fail to give you the help you need, a trip to your doctor may be required.

The focus of your treatment should be to address the IBS first; although generally conventional treatments are short-lived solutions rather than tackling the root of the problem. Anti-anxiety or anti-depressant medication may be prescribed if necessary but beware of any side effects which may exacerbate IBS symptoms.

Silicol®gel – For IBS


£ 8.29

find your local stockist

Silicol gel - Colloidal silicic acid gel treatment for IBS and indigestion. 200ml and 500ml …
More info

What's being asked

Are there herbal remedies to help IBS?

Yes, but it depends what your symptoms are as to what remedy would best suit you.  The herb ...
Read more >

I have IBS and was wondering will Tormentil help?

Tormentil helps with diarrhoea, but many people with IBS experience diarrhoea as part of a pattern ...
Read more >

What can I eat to help avoid IBS?

It’s often not what you eat but how you eat it that is the issue. Eating on the run or when ...
Read more >

Wondering if you have IBS?

Take our simple, 9 question test to find out.

Take the IBS test

Here’s what I recommend

As the A.Vogel Digestion advisor, I recommend Silicol® Gel and Molkosan® Original, to help with your IBS symptoms.

Learn more

Did you know?

How you eat rather than what you eat can also trigger your IBS. From not chewing your food enough to even how you sit while you eat can all impact affect your IBS!

7 simple eating habits to help ease IBS

Healthy & nutritious dinner ideas

Get new recipes in your inbox every week. Sign up now

Buy A.Vogel Pollinosan Hayfever Luffa Nasal Spray Was £8.25 Now £4.99

     Receive healthy recipes from A.Vogel      every month.


Receive healthy recipes from A.Vogel every month

Sign up now