Inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD), such as Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis, are complex conditions that can be significantly affected by mental state. Patients with these diseases may experience a worsening of physical symptoms, leading to a flare-up of the disease. Symptoms may include an increase in the amount of 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 of patients is on a continuous upward trend. While the exact causes of these diseases are not fully understood, they are believed to be influenced by genetic, environmental factors and immune system factors. A recent study examined the relationship between mental difficulties and IBD symptoms, noting that there is a mutual influence between IBDs and mental disorders such as anxiety, depression and post-traumatic disorder which can negatively affect the course of the disease.
The brain and digestive system have significant interactions with each other, with more nerve cells in the digestive system than in the spine. Stress has been found to have a significant effect on this axis connecting the two systems. To deal with prolonged stress that affects chronic disease course, it’s important to prioritize self-care by being mindful of drug treatment and medical follow-up sequences and ensuring proper nutrition and sleep habits. Proper breathing techniques can also help reduce stress levels by releasing energy trapped inside when our body is constantly in “fight or flight” mode. Additionally understanding that we cannot control everything but how we react to it can help regain control over our lives through routine daily actions like changing negative thoughts and increasing physical activity. If mental distress persists for an extended period causing harm to quality of life then seeking help from mental health providers or support groups should be considered as maintaining normal mental state is critical for managing inflammatory bowel diseases too. For more information about support services please contact 03-7441391 or visit www.ccfi.co.il