Given how closely the gut and brain interact, it might seem obvious that the pair often influence each other. Some people feel nauseated before giving a presentation; others feel intestinal pain during times of stress. In any case, emotional and psychosocial factors play a role in functional gastrointestinal disorders.
Treating the whole body
Stress-related symptoms felt in the gastrointestinal tract vary greatly from one person to the next, and treatment can vary as well. For example, one person with gastroesophageal reflux disease might have an occasional, mild burning sensation in the chest, while another experiences excruciating discomfort night after night. As the severity of symptoms varies, so should the therapies, medications, self-help strategies, or even surgeries used to relieve them.
Many people have mild symptoms that respond quickly to changes in diet or medications. If your symptoms do not improve, your clinician may ask you more questions about your medical history and perform some diagnostic tests to rule out an underlying cause. For some people, symptoms improve as soon as a serious diagnosis, like cancer, has been ruled out. Your doctor may also recommend symptom-specific medications.
But sometimes these treatments are not enough. If symptoms persist, it's common to experience psychological distress.
Some people are reluctant to accept the role of psycho-social factors in their illness. But it's important to know that emotions cause genuine chemical and physical responses in the body that can result in pain and discomfort.
Cognitive behavioral therapy and stress reduction techniques such as meditation and relaxation therapies can help manage pain and improve other symptoms in ways that are different from how drugs act. The goal of all therapies is to reduce anxiety, encourage healthy behaviors, and help people cope with the pain and discomfort of their condition.
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