IBS and depression

How depression can be associated with IBS


Alison Cullen
Nutritional Practitioner, BA (Hons), DN, DNT (Distinction)
@AVogelUK
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An introduction to IBS and depression

Depression is a serious mood disorder resulting in an ongoing feeling of extreme sadness and loss of interest. People experiencing Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) are at a greater risk of developing psychological disorders, such as anxiety and depression.

The causal relationship between IBS and depression isn’t absolute. In some cases it appears IBS may cause low mood or depression which we will discuss on this page but on the flipside, the onset of depression may also lead to IBS. Please refer to our page [Psychological factors and IBS] if this is more relevant.

To read more general information on depression, visit A.Vogel Talks Mood Health

Why does IBS cause depression?

IBS can be extremely debilitating, resulting in feelings of low mood and even contribute to the onset of depression. IBS and low mood can work together in a vicious cycle, with physical symptoms affecting mood in a negative way and vice versa.

The feel good neurotransmitter serotonin is abundant in the gut, which has major connections with the brain via its own enteric nervous system (ENS) in a so-called brain-gut interaction. This suggests there could be a possible mechanism here regarding the links between IBS and low mood. However, this relationship is still not completely understood.

Please note depression is a serious mood disorder, resulting in an on-going feeling of extreme sadness. You should always approach a medical professional for help if you are suffering from this condition.

How can herbal remedies help me?

Herbal remedies should not be used for self-medication in people suffering depression. It may be necessary to visit your doctor to receive a diagnosis and prescribed treatment.

  • St John’s Wort: If however, your IBS is causing you to feel a bit down or low in mood, a natural herbal remedy called St. Johns Wort can be very beneficial.

If IBS appears to be the underlying condition and cause of low mood or depression then we should attempt to address this issue first.

  • Molkosan: L+ lactic acid from fermented whey works well to create an environment to support the good bacteria in our gut, which if overtaken by any bad bacteria, can cause irritation in the gut and contribute to IBS symptoms.

How can my doctor help?

If you have depression, your doctor would make a diagnosis based on an in-depth consultation. They would then treat you as appropriate, using a range of therapies including Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) and prescribed anti-depressant medicines. There is some suggestion that anti-depressants may improve the symptoms of the IBS either directly or indirectly.

Can I do anything at home?

Once being treated by your doctor, it may be useful to take a few simple steps at home to complement the treatment recommended.

  • Eat fresh: You eat with your eyes too, so prepare bright, appealing plates of food to feel good before even tucking in. You will benefit from the positive physical effects from those fresh wholesome ingredients packed with beneficial vitamins, minerals and antioxidants as they help feed both your body and mind. Read more in our Blog: Low in mood? Take a look at your food
  • Relaxation techniques: Breathing exercises and techniques such as meditation can be of added benefit in people prone to depression – they help relax the mind and divert unhelpful thoughts
  • Exercise: Research suggests exercise is able to release the feel good neurotransmitter serotonin. The function of anti-depressant medication is to increase serotonin so exercise may enhance this process. Read more in our blog article on how exercise can affect your mood.

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

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Here’s what I recommend

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

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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!

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