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Breaking the Bad Sleep – Bad IBS Cycle

Breaking the Bad Sleep - Bad IBS Cycle

Anxiety, Sleep, and IBS

The majority of the clients I see for IBS also struggle with poor sleep. There is good evidence that links better sleep patterns with better control of IBS, and this isn’t all that surprising when we recognize the central role that sleep plays in regulating and coordinating all of our body’s natural rhythms.

Poor sleep can be both a cause and an effect of IBS. In other words, poor sleep can cause IBS, and IBS can disrupt sleep.

In addition to the “gut-sleep connection,” the “gut-brain connection” is another important area of exploration. Our expanding knowledge of this pathway uncovers the need to understand how the brain is generating anxiety, and how that anxiety leads to poor sleep and poor gut functioning.

What is an Axious Gut?

The latest research reveals that when certain bacteria gain an upper hand in the gut, the brain develops an anxious outlook.

The body goes into hyper-arousal mode. Everything, including other people, appear more threatening. Digestive health goes off the rails, with diarrhea, constipation, bloating, and pain increasing. Social relationships suffer, too, when we start to favor avoidance over connection.

But, we’ve also learned that the influence moves in the other direction such that anxiety is also capable of causing bacterial imbalances in the gut. Anxiety alters our microbiome in ways that make it harder for the body’s systems, including the gut, to remain well-regulated. So, reducing anxiety, regardless of the source, is an important component of IBS self-management.

How Can Sleep Help?

Sleep patterns sit right at the intersection of brain and gut rhythms. When IBS is active, sleep disturbances increase. When anxiety levels are higher, being able to fall and stay asleep is a major challenge.

But, because everything in the body is connected to a multi-directional communication network, focusing on getting good sleep not only reduces anxiety, it also helps to re-regulate gut functioning to reduce IBS symptoms. So, what can you begin doing right away?

Creating Conditions for Good Sleep

Here are tried and true methods for restoring sleep to reduce anxiety and increase IBS control.


Practice Good Sleep Hygiene

This involves synchronizing your body with the natural rhythms of sunrise and moonrise. Slow down in the evening. Turn down lights and lower sounds as evening falls. Disconnect from electronic devices.

Approach getting good sleep as essential as getting good nutrition. (I offer much more on sleep and IBS control in our Free Mini-Course and, of course, in our full IBS Relief Now program).


Pre-sleep Routine

Develop a pre-sleep mental and physical quieting routine. That may involve meditation, prayer, a warm bath, a yogic shavasana relaxation practice, self-hypnosis or guided imagery, a slow and leisurely walk, or sipping a cup of chamomile tea.


Try Natural Supplements

Research has shown that intermittent use of natural supplements to be helpful in obtaining good sleep for certain individuals. This should be undertaken after consulting with a qualified health professional who knows you and your specific health status.

But, melatonin, magnesium, zinc, glycine, L-theanine, passion flower, and valerian root have all shown variable degrees of benefit when used appropriately.


Get Out and Get Moving

Increasing activity levels during the day has been proven to have a major benefit in improving sleep at night. This doesn’t have to be vigorous exercise. Walking is the most universally accessible and widely beneficial movement activity in which you can engage.


Self Reflective Journaling

Finally, consider developing a journaling practice taking 10-15 minutes to jot down, without self-censorship, what’s on your mind.

It is a good time to gain control over runaway worries. It is a time to develop the practice of writing down three things for which you are grateful. It is a time to identify fear or worries or matters about which you are angry and learn to let them go through imagery or breathing practices or other proven approaches.

Regardless of the paths and practices you choose, bringing together good sleep, improved IBS control, and a more optimistic and positive outlook is a well-established way of regaining control of both your gut and your life. Sweet dreams!

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Here’s What’s Really Causing Your IBS

Here’s What’s Really Causing Your IBS

(and it’s not what you think)

Chasing Symptoms and Misunderstanding Causes

In today’s world, we expect answers to our questions, and we expect them quickly. When it comes to managing IBS, chasing simple and quick fixes can be as much of the problem as the IBS pattern itself.

Too often, we chase symptoms and settle for narrowly focused ideas of their causes and how to tackle them: “Just eliminate gluten.” “Eat more fiber.” “Practice meditation.” “Go on an elimination diet.” “Go on an anti-inflammation diet.” “Take Nexium.” “Worry less.” “Exercise more.” “Exercise less.” “Just relax.” Continue reading “Here’s What’s Really Causing Your IBS”

Three Major Players in Gut Health

Three Major Players in Gut Health

And how to help them help you

Your digestive system is amazingly complex. Singular inputs, like certain foods, can kick off cascade reactions that affect the body in a multitude of ways. Because of this complexity, you may grow frustrated with how difficult it can be to figure out what helps your IBS and what doesn’t. Continue reading “Three Major Players in Gut Health”

Whose Side Are You On?

Whose Side Are You On?

Antibiotics vs. C. difficile

antibiotics IBS bacteria kill

What’s at Stake When Taking Antibiotics

Each year, more than 150 million antibiotic prescriptions are written. Only a fraction of them are truly necessary. But, whether necessary or not, antibiotic use opens the door to a host of digestive problems, including the development of Clostridium difficile (known as C. diff.), a major digestive bacterial overgrowth syndrome associated with watery diarrhea, cramping, severe pain, dehydration, and fever. This risk arises because antibiotics can indiscriminately kill off many of the friendly or commensal species of bacteria that happily live in our guts and which are so necessary for enabling smooth digestion and nutritional health.

Continue reading “Whose Side Are You On?”

Your Gut Bacteria Linked to Obesity

Each month brings out new research studies showing that the bacteria that live in our digestive tracts are intimately linked to our health in many ways. Our understanding of the relationships between our “gut flora” (the bacteria living in our digestive tract) and our health is still in its infancy. But, several trends are emerging.

One interesting line of research, which was highlighted in a 2018 article in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, involved the relationship between the presence of specific types of bacteria in our gut and the likelihood that we will become obese. They found specific types of bacteria were contributing to higher amounts of a substance called glutamate that circulates in our blood. Glutamate levels in the blood are strongly linked to the risk of obesity. Continue reading “Your Gut Bacteria Linked to Obesity”


What Diet is Best for Managing IBS

There really, absolutely, positively IS a sure-fire diet that effectively permanently controls IBS. Here it is: Eat whatever you want that 1) doesn’t aggravate your IBS symptoms, 2) doesn’t create other health problems, such as obesity, heart disease, insomnia, anxiety, or depression, and 3) leaves you feeling healthy, well-energized, and with a confident and optimistic outlook on your future!

We ALL want THAT diet. Sadly, when it comes to a one-size fits all solution, there isn’t one. This shouldn’t be a surprise, since each of us is unique; each of us lives a life that involves different circumstances and conditions; and just as no two of us share the same fingerprint, no two of us requires exactly the same nutrients to be fully healthy.

So, what do we do to bring the frustrating ravages of IBS under consistent control? Continue reading “IS THERE AN IBS DIET?”

Caring For Our Gastrointestinal Guests

The Body’s Rhythms

Our body wouldn’t function without being guided by many automatic rhythms. Think about it: heart rhythms, breathing rhythms, swallowing and blinking rhythms, nerve firing rhythms, circulating hormone release rhythms. These life-sustaining rhythms occur all day, every day in an automatic, unconscious way. Most of these rhythms also fluctuate within a life-supporting range – faster heart and breathing rates as our activity levels increase, for example. Continue reading “Caring For Our Gastrointestinal Guests”