Inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD), specifically Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis, are conditions that can be significantly impacted by one’s mental state. Patients may experience a worsening of their physical symptoms, leading to a flare-up of the disease. Symptoms may include an increase in stools, an increased tendency to bleed, a decrease in hemoglobin levels, fatigue, and exhaustion.
In Israel, approximately 65,000 patients suffer from IBD and the number continues to rise. While the exact causes of these diseases are not fully understood, they are believed to be influenced by a complex interplay between genetic, environmental factors and those related to the immune system. A study published in 2023 examined the relationship between mental difficulties and IBD symptoms and found that there is a mutual influence between IBD and mental disorders such as anxiety, depression and post-traumatic disorder.
The brain and digestive system have a significant interaction and it has been found that the digestive system contains more nerve cells than the spine. Stress has been shown to have a significant effect on the axis connecting the digestive system to the brain. Dealing with prolonged stress that affects the course of chronic illness can be challenging but it is important to prioritize self-care first by ensuring proper medication treatment and follow-up care.
In addition to this it is important to practice correct breathing techniques which can help calm the body’s “fight or flight” response mode when it is under constant stress due to lack of control over what happens in life. It’s also important for patients with IBD to understand that while they cannot control everything that happens to them, they can control how they respond to it through routine daily actions such as changing negative thoughts, increasing physical activity like walking or jogging for energy release.
If mental distress persists over time with symptoms harming quality of life then seeking help from community mental health providers or health funds should be considered as maintaining normal mental state is essential for managing IBD as well. For more information about support services go visit www.ccfi