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Barbara Bradley Bolen, Ph.D.

IBS and Cell Phones

By January 18, 2013

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The title of this blog is a bit of a misnomer because I have not found any clinical research on the subject of IBS and cell phones. What I do want to discuss is my clinical experience as a psychologist on the subject of cell phones. My official statement on cell phones is that they are good if your car breaks down. Otherwise, they are not good for mental and physical health!

Our bodies were not designed to handle the immediacy of cell phones. When we were living in caves, our bodies developed the stress response to help us to survive running into a hungry lion. Luckily, the stress response worked, and the people to hungry lion ratio was favorable, and we have survived as a species. The problem with modern life is that by being available to other people on a 24/7 basis, which is what happens when your cell phone is tied to your hips, we are constantly running into the modern equivalent of hungry lions (e.g. demanding teenagers, unreasonable bosses) and our bodies respond to that. The stress response system was not designed for constant use and its constant stimulation can result in health problems.

So where does IBS fit in with all of this? If you suffer from IBS, then there is already a dysfunction in your body's stress response system. This dysfunction is not necessarily caused by stress, but it exists all the same. So for your IBS health, and your overall health, you want to do whatever you can to reduce the strain on your stress response system. An easy way to do this is to turn off your cell phones!

The advantage of turning off your cell phone is that it provides you with the ability to respond to the wants of others at your own pace and at a time when you are able to calmly respond. I have heard too many stories about people walking in to the work place and getting a phone call from home from squabbling children. Patients in my own office lose valuable treatment time because they choose to answer their phones, which often turn out to be unimportant calls. When my patients object to my recommendation about turning off cell phones, I remind them that people survived for many years without having the immediate ability to communicate. You can too. If your kids are hurt, someone will find you quickly. You also always have the option of checking your messages frequently. The difference is that when you are checking your messages, you are focused only on that task and thus your body can respond appropriately. It is the constant interruption by cell calls that I believe to have a negative effect on health.

Well, that is my cell phone rant. And, full disclaimer, I love my cell phone! However, I try to remain mindful that I use it as a wonderful tool and not as something that raises my stress level.

Related Reading from Dr. Bolen, your IBS Guide:

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January 23, 2013 at 3:45 pm
(1) Christine says:

I used to have one of those unreasonable bosses. He provided me with a company cell phone so he, and even clients, could reach me at any time, in case of an emergency. I won’t get into what he considered emergencies, but I have to say, carrying that phone around was more stressful than any of the time I spent in the office.Just hearing ti ring made me cringe and tense up, every time. Everyone needs unplugged time, and plenty of it..

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