This blog is #5 in a series of blogs in the form of questions or statements about a health issue and answers. These are in the typical format used when doctors take tests. 

Question #5:

A 32-year-old female presents with IBS-D that has worsened since starting a new job that has been stressful.

She is having 4-6 watery, non-bloody stools a day with cramping and bloating. She does not want to be told, “this is all in your head.” The most appropriate strategy in explaining the mind-body connection to encourage acceptance would be:

(Before I give the choices, let me make sure everyone knows what IBS-D means. It stands for Irritable Bowel Syndrome-Diarrhea. When the IBS shows up as frequent, loose, watery stools. As opposed to IBS-C which is when IBS shows up as constipation. Not having bowel movements as often as you should and they tend to be hard to pass.)

Now the choices…

  1. “Your symptoms got worse when you started your stressful job. I am going to refer you to a psychologist.”
  2. “Until you get your mind under control, your gut will never be the same.”
  3. “This is a stress-related disease. It is outside of my area of expertise and I can’t help you.”
  4. “The mind and the gut are interconnected by a large pathway called the vagus nerve. We can use this powerful connection to your advantage by recruiting your mind as a therapeutic ally to help your gut heal.”

That’s correct! #4.

Communicating the importance and power of the mind-body connection in IBS is an important skill.

Answer 1 does not relieve the patient’s fears.

Answer 2 would make the patient feel blamed with projection of the clinician’s belief and no explanation of the complicated multifocal nature of this disease.

Answer 3 gives up on the patient. We can always be of some service through our presence and willingness to stick with the patient towards health and healing.

Answer 4 is the best answer. It gives the patient an explanation of how the mind-body is interconnected by a specific pathway that can be used to their advantage towards improving symptoms and quality of life.

This enhances understanding and a sense of control that helps switch belief from a negative perception to a proactive one.

“Got a revolution. Got to revolution.”