How My Faith Plays a Role in My IBS Management
I’ll preface this post with a simple statement: I know this may seem controversial, but I want you to know that this is my story. If you don’t agree with my spiritual beliefs, approach this post with an open mind. You never know what value you may get from it.
IBS is highly misunderstood, and can feel isolating to live with. For most of my life, I have struggled with depression, and I never fully understood why. I come from a great family, I’ve been given opportunities for education and career, I have an incredible husband and the best dog, and I’ve dealt with some hard times, but have never lacked my basic needs. I am so grateful for the life I have been given, but I’ve still struggled throughout it all.
The more that I study IBS and the gut microbiota, the more I am understanding why. We know that IBS and depression are linked, because the gut and brain are connected. IBS is a condition where the gut microbiota is altered, which can also cause changes in the brain that lead to depression.
It’s tempting to read that and think “I was just born this way.” Yes, depression is something I continue to struggle with, but I don’t have to settle there. This is where my faith comes in.
I am a Christian, a follower of Christ. I was raised in a pentecostal, protestant church in the United States, so my beliefs were ingrained into my worldview at a very young age. I am thankful for my family and the legacy they created for me, but it took me until adulthood to fully own my faith. I won’t get into all the details, but if you want to talk more about this journey and where I stand, send me a message. In college, I decided that I truly believe Jesus Christ is the son of God, and God himself. I believe He came to earth in love, lived an incredible life that I can admire and learn from, then died and rose again (yep, back to life) to re-connect me (and everyone else) to God. I believe God created humanity to be in relationship with Him.
What does that have to do with IBS?
We know the best way to manage IBS is to deal with stress, and reduce stress and anxiety in your life. Food is a bonus way to avoid symptoms. For me, my faith and the hope I find in knowing that I am fully connected to God reduces that stress and anxiety. I still struggle, but the difference is that when I do struggle and have moments of fear and anxiety, I know that I can go to scripture and pray with confident expectation that God is who He says He is and He will do what He says He will do. This is a form of meditation I practice in my life, and have found to be extremely powerful for me. I’ve learned that the depressive thoughts can easily separate me from my source of life, but I get to choose to fight for that connection. So far, God has never let me down.
There are times in my life where this wasn’t always the case. I have been angry with God when I read scriptures like “I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139)” because I don’t always feel wonderfully made. Sometimes I feel like my body was poorly made because my gut just can’t get itself together. But, what I have chosen to stand firm in is believing that God is good, no matter what. I know nobody likes to hear that everything happens for a reason, but I believe that God is intentional. Maybe He allowed IBS to be a part of my life so that I can help others walking through it. Do I think He’s the reason why I have IBS? No. I believe I have it because we live in an imperfect world and the stress and trauma from my childhood altered the way my gut functions. Do I believe God can heal me of IBS? Yep. And I choose to believe that everything I learn about my body and every habit I am able to implement to manage my symptoms is a form of healing. I choose to be grateful to God for every little success in my digestive journey, even if it doesn’t make sense.
If you’re also a Christian, but you’ve struggled with being frustrated with God or feeling ashamed that you are dealing with depression, I want to encourage you to begin a meditation practice with scriptures that will encourage you. I’ve added a few below that you can start with. If you’re not a Christian and would like to hear more about how I can be confident and hopeful in Jesus, I’d love to talk. If you’re not interested or have a different belief system than I do, take this encouragement with you: the body is as much spiritual as it is mental, emotional, and physical. How can you tap into your spiritual self to reduce the stress, anxiety, and depressive thoughts from your mind? This is where meditation is rooted, and a simple meditation practice with breath is a great place to start.
As always, I want to hear your story too. Let me know your thoughts, how you relate, how you don’t relate, or whatever else you’d like to share with the community in a comment below.