Yes! Your life will also get a massive upgrade!
If you suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), other stomach issues, or chronic pain, have you ever noticed how digestive issues can increase your mental stress? In this blog post, we talked about the interaction between your brain, belly, and the environment in your gut. The dance this trio does together can leave you cycling between anxiety and deep belly pain. Our Evanston and Chicago therapists, work closely with you when the pain is physical and emotional. Let’s talk about what that looks like as you engage in therapy with us. Relief from your pain is possible.
The Gut-Brain Connection: What is this and why should I care?
The gut-brain axis is the interplay of signals between your gut, your brain, and the environment in your gut called the gut microbiome. The gut microbiome is home to microbes of various sorts (the positive bacteria and not so positive).
The signaling system between the brain and the gut communicates mainly via the vagus nerve. Chemical messengers, belly and brain hormones, and neurotransmitters interact in this same system, too.
Researchers have learned that with this gut-brain superhighway, what happens in the belly, can affect what is happening in the brain and vice versa.
So, your thoughts (mental stress and anxiety) can affect the pain you feel in your gut. The environment in your stomach, dictated for the most part by your nutrition, can cause you to experience brain fog. The pain you feel in your gut loops back to the brain, and can increase your level of stress. What an intricate system!
Psychologists at UCLA express the interactions like this:
“Stress or intense emotions can interfere with digestion and aggravate symptoms. In addition, the experience of GI symptoms can result in a pattern of distressing thoughts and feelings that worsen stress and increase bothersome symptoms.”
In our Evanston/Chicago practice we are a team who helps you to best manage your symptoms and live a full life. Your relationship with your doctor is also an integral part in the healing process. You will want to work with a gastroenterologist who sees you, your life circumstances and your mental wellness as parts of a whole.
Award-winning gastroenterologist, founder, president emeritus and chief of operations of the Rome Foundation and Rome Foundation Research Institute, Dr. Doug Drossman, describes the field of gastroenterology like this: “Gastroenterology looks at the person and his or her symptoms in the context of daily functioning, life stress, quality of life, and coping style. Optimal patient diagnosis and management require human interaction through history, physical examination, and a patient-centered care model. Of course, we also need imaging methods and endoscopy for many of our patients, but it all comes back to the patient and patient communication.” Consider Dr. Drossman’s guideposts to know if your doctor has a holistic view of your symptoms and how they affect your life when arriving at a diagnosis.
Perhaps you feel your doctor doesn’t understand you or you have difficulty expressing what is happening in your body. In his book, Gut Feelings–Disorders of Gut-Brain Interaction and the Patient-Doctor Relationship: A Guide for Patients and Doctors,” Dr. Drossman gives patients the language and means to effectively communicate with their doctor. Take a look to see if what he suggests might be helpful to you. Open communication with your doctor will help to foster the best possible outcomes for you.
How can therapy help me?
Health psychology is a division of psychology that uses new thinking and behavior patterns learned in therapy to improve the quality of your physical well-being. At Evanston Counseling, you will work with therapists trained in gastrointestinal psychology, a branch of health psychology.
avoidant behaviors due to GI symptoms
anxiety around food and eating
The list of dietary restrictions makes eating more of a chore than a pleasure. As you know, your health impacts so many areas of your life: school, work, family relationships, and friendships. Therapy will help to change your perspective on eating and lead you toward a better quality of life in all areas.
Which Counseling Services Will Most Benefit Me?
We help women facing chronic illness, gastrointestinal issues, and pain syndromes to manage their emotional and physical symptoms. We use counseling, hypnotherapy, and stress management techniques to help them live a fuller life. Many of our clients have tried everything to relieve their symptoms. They are at the end of their rope.
When we begin working together, we will look at which thought and behavior patterns can and need to be reshaped. Cognitive-behavioral therapy and hypnotherapy are the best, researched-based methods for helping you to notice a change in both your physical symptoms and emotional pain. You may not be familiar with the benefits of hypnotherapy for your symptoms. Yet, years of research demonstrate the effectiveness of this type of therapy. We will walk with you step by step and teach you about hypnotherapy. You will see and know its usefulness in helping you to feel better. Our stress management techniques include deep breathing, muscle relaxation, and guided imagery. These components change your body’s behavioral response that can then feedback to influence your thoughts.
What Outcomes Can I Expect from Therapy?
Implementing what you learn in therapy, you will be able to take back control of your life. You can begin making plans with less fear of a flare-up affecting your activities. Your anxiety about tomorrow will become more of an infrequent thought. The coping skills you learn will help to lower your stress level.
This article explains the positive outcomes of counseling for your IBS or chronic pain of gastrointestinal issues in this way:
“behavioral interventions lead to better health outcomes, including decreased illness symptoms, less health care utilization and improved quality of life.”
Our patients find that once they feel calmer and in control of their thinking, their body feels better too. They experience fewer flare-ups with their IBS, less discomfort with GI issues or chronic pain.
We would love to discuss a plan for helping you to manage your IBS symptoms, chronic pain or other stomach issues. Book a consult today to explore how therapy can help you start to feel better emotionally and physically. Lets chat. Relief from your pain is possible.