Washington: It's known that stress can cause stomach upset. Now, a new study has found that the emotional and psychological trauma can also contribute to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a disorder that causes abdominal pain, constipation and diarrhoea.

Researchers at Mayo Clinic in Rochester found that people who have experienced more trauma over their lifetimes are more likely to experience IBS. This trauma, according to them, can range from deaths of loved ones to divorce to disasters such as experiencing a house fire or a car accident.

The exact cause of IBS is unknown, but the researchers suspect that the nerves and muscles that control the bowel are to blame, an agency reported.

Stress may over-activate the nerves that connect the brain and the gut, leading to painful and embarrassing bowel problems. Women are 1.5 times more likely than men to be diagnosed with the condition, which may affect up to 20 percent of American adults.

Psychological trauma over the lifetime may sensitise the brain and the gut, study researcher Yuri Saito-Loftus said, making both more vulnerable to stress.

For the study, Saito-Loftus and her colleagues queried 2,623 people about the number and type of traumatic events they'd experienced in their lifetimes. Participants with IBS reported more traumas than people without the disorder.

While IBS does not ultimately harm the intestines, the disease burden is significant, with patients missing more workdays, needing more medication, and being hospitalised more frequently than the general population.

Saito-Loftus, who presented their findings at the annual meeting of the American College of Gastroenterology in the US, said the new research may help patients understand and manage their symptoms.

"Patients and their families frequently wonder, 'Why me? Why did this [IBS] happen?'" Saito-Loftus said. "This will help them understand why IBS happened to them, why stress continues to play a role in their IBS symptoms."