The Real Cause of IBS – How Your Brain Tricks You Into An Irritable Bowel Disorder
Have you been told there’s no known cause (or cure) for your irritable bowel disorder? What depressing information! Without a cause, how can you find a solution?
Well, here’s some good news.
Recent evidence from neurology and rehabilitation medicine shows that the little-known cause of IBS is a “trick” your brain plays on your body.
Your brain is incredibly powerful!
In fact, it’s so powerful that when you go through an intense and challenging experience, your brain takes action to protect you from feeling the full impact. And this happens without your conscious knowledge. This is wild stuff, but nobody said humans were easy to understand…
So, how does your brain trick you into an irritable bowel disorder?
There are two different answers to this question. One is from pain expert and specialist in Rehabilitation Medicine, Dr. John Sarno. The other comes from traumatologist and brain scientist, Dr. Robert Scaer. Both of these MDs have helped thousands of patients recover from chronic pain and other recurring health problems during their decades as practicing physicians.
Dr. Sarno believes that all of us are under some kind of pressure, whether it be from daily life and work, unresolved childhood events, or expectations we have of ourselves to be nice, good, perfect people. (Recognize yourself yet?)
Maybe you’re great at coping with pressure. But if you have an irritable bowel disorder, Dr. Sarno suggests you open your mind to another possibility.
He says that however calm and civilized you are on the conscious level, underneath your smooth surface, another beast lurks. On the unconscious level, pressure creates intense feelings of rage. In fact, we ALL have these feelings. They are normal. Except we don’t know we’re having them because they are not conscious.
Now it gets even stranger. Because rage is so unacceptable, so not-nice, and so threatening, here’s what your brain does to keep you from noticing that you are feeling it…
Your brain actually creates a physical problem to distract your attention!
How bizarre is that? Yet it happens to millions of people. This is how your brain tricks you into an irritable bowel disorder, or fibromyalgia, pain in your back, neck or shoulders, leg pain, TMJ, tendonitis, carpal tunnel, skin disorders, and some circulatory or heart problems. Your brain is trying to protect you by distracting you from that unbearable (and unconscious) emotion with physical symptoms.
Even though your symptoms come from a trick your brain plays on you, Dr. Sarno does NOT consider them imaginary in any way. They are very real. In fact, since so many of us have chronic pain and symptoms, Dr. Sarno believes they are a normal response to pressure and repressed rage.
Because Robert Scaer is a neurologist, he looks at things a little differently from John Sarno. He says it is your brain’s reaction to trauma that triggers your symptoms when you have an irritable bowel disorder, chronic pain, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, migraine, or one of several other chronic conditions.
Dr. Scaer defines “trauma” as any event your brain perceives as a threat to your survival when you are helpless to do anything about it. The trauma could be physical, like a car accident, or emotional, like bullying at school. There are many possibilities.
Typically, when you’re threatened, you go into fight or flight mode. These are normal survival reactions. There’s a third reaction that happens when you experience the combination of threat and helplessness. You “freeze.”
Prey animals who can’t escape from the predator will freeze in a last-ditch attempt to survive. “If I look dead, maybe that big hungry lion won’t eat me.” Then, if the lion walks away, the prey gets up and shakes off the freeze.
We humans, on the other hand, train ourselves NOT to shake it off. Shaking and trembling look goofy and nobody wants to be that uncool. So we repress it. (There’s that word again. Repression is a real killer.) This creates havoc for your Autonomic Nervous System, which controls a whole lot of your body processes including your digestion….
Now, here’s where the trick comes in. When you freeze, your brain remembers everything about that trauma, and I mean everything. Sights, sounds, smells, tastes, feelings – everything that was going on outside of your body AND inside you. So, later on, when any little thing reminds your brain of that experience, it thinks you’re in danger again and it triggers your Autonomic Nervous System to over-react.
That’s what sets off your symptoms of an irritable bowel disorder. Your brain “tricks” your body into thinking that the trauma is happening all over again. So your poor body reacts by either shutting down your digestion (constipation) or losing control of it (diarrhea, urgency), or swinging wildly between both (spasms, cramps.)
Sarno and Scaer are not the only doctors who credit the brain with causing an irritable bowel disorder. Two neuro-scientists, David Servan-Schreiber, MD, PhD, author of “The Instinct to Heal” and Robert Sapolsky, PhD, author of “Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers” both point out that it is your brain’s response to threats and stresses that leads to gastrointestinal problems.
So, according to these scientists, the real cause of an irritable bowel disorder is not “all in your head,” but comes from the unconscious processes of your mind and brain. Fortunately, you can use drug-free methods such as the Emotional Freedom Technique or Somatic Experiencing to do some “re-programming” and resolve your symptoms.