NYU Langone gastroenterologists recognize the importance of addressing the relationship between the brain and the digestive system when developing a treatment plan for irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS.
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Emotions such as anxiety, stress, and depression activate chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters, which in turn can activate pain signals in the gut, including the stomach and intestines. This is why unhappiness or stress can sometimes cause a stomachache or upset stomach.
Research shows that improving psychological health may help improve digestive health. It may alleviate abdominal pain and other IBS symptoms. Our physicians, nutritionists, and therapists can help you reduce stress and restore balance between the brain and the gut.
Moderate cardiovascular exercise increases blood flow throughout the body, providing nutrients and oxygen to the digestive system. For example, practicing yoga, running, or swimming a few times a week may help regulate contractions in the intestines, relieving abdominal pain.
When combined with a healthy diet, exercise may also help you maintain a healthy body weight and boost your sense of well-being. Always consult a physician before beginning an exercise program.
NYU Langone physiatrists, doctors who specialize in rehabilitation medicine, offer therapeutic techniques that may relieve abdominal pain by helping your mind and muscles relax.
Acupuncture and acupressure involve the use of very thin needles or massage to stimulate specific points on the body, enhancing blood flow.
Meditation is a form of deep relaxation that has been used by people all over the world for centuries. During group meditation at NYU Langone, people usually sit quietly with their eyes closed, allowing the mind to focus on remaining still. Many people find that meditation helps restore emotional balance, reduce stress, and boost energy.
Research shows that hypnosis—in which a practitioner helps you achieve a state of deep relaxation—may help relieve IBS symptoms without medication or dietary changes. NYU Langone has a board-certified hypnotherapist on staff.
Anxiety or depression may trigger IBS symptoms or cause them to worsen. Our gastrointestinal specialists include a psychotherapist who specializes in working with people who experience anxiety or depression and IBS symptoms.
Many people find that talking about their concerns in therapy can help ease digestive discomfort. In addition, antianxiety medication or an antidepressant may help relieve gastrointestinal symptoms related to emotional stress.
Learn more about our research and professional education opportunities.