Date Approved


Graduate Degree Type


Degree Name

Clinical Dietetics (M.S.)

Degree Program

Health Professions

First Advisor

Libby MacQuillan

Second Advisor

Gerald Shoultz

Third Advisor

Randalynn Hajek

Academic Year



IBS effects approximately 5% of the world’s population with symptoms ranging from unexplainable constipation to daily abdominal pain. Though treatment options are available and have been proven beneficial for certain individuals, discovering the root cause of IBS has been difficult to accomplish due to the variety of symptoms that differ from case to case. This study aims to increase understanding of the influence that chronic stress has on irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety, depression, and the microbiome in the college-age population since this group is likely to experience daily stressors, anxiety- and depressive-like thoughts, as well as IBS symptoms. Current research suggests that anxiety and depression, the microbiome, and the gut- brain axis are in some way associated with symptoms of IBS. This research used a survey design with quantitative analysis of data and was distributed to a random sample of undergraduate students at Grand Valley State University. The survey contained questions about the participants’ bowel habits, anxiety levels, depression levels, and perceived stress levels. Frequencies, Prevalence Ratios, Ordinal Regression, Crosstabulations, and Pearson’s Chi-Square or Fisher’s Exact test were used to understand the prevalence of IBS diagnosis and IBS symptoms compared to stress, anxiety, and depression scores. The data indicate that among college students without a medical diagnosis of IBS, higher levels of IBS symptoms are associated with severe levels of stress, moderate to severe levels of anxiety, and moderate to severe levels of depression. By encouraging the idea that these symptoms are interrelated, it can increase awareness for medical professionals to screen patients for IBS if they score high on mood disorder or stress surveys. Furthermore, treatment options can be updated in terms of medical nutrition therapy as well as related to mental health in order to arm individuals with the necessary tools that they need to treat this syndrome and overcome painful and uncomfortable symptoms.