Inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD), including Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis, are conditions that can be significantly impacted by a patient’s mental state. Patients with these illnesses may experience worsening physical symptoms that result in disease flare-ups, including increased stool frequency, bleeding, and decreased hemoglobin levels, as well as fatigue and exhaustion.
In Israel, approximately 65,000 individuals suffer from IBD, and the number of patients is steadily increasing. The root causes of these diseases are not fully understood but include a complex interplay between several factors such as genetics, environmental factors and immune system-related issues. A 2023 study examined the relationship between mental health disorders like anxiety, depression and post-traumatic disorder with IBD and their symptoms. The findings revealed that there is a mutual influence between IBD and mental health disorders which can have a negative impact on the progression of the disease.
The brain-gut axis is well established and has been found to have more nerve cells than the spine. Stress also plays a significant role in this connection. Prolonged stress can negatively affect the course of chronic diseases like IBD. To manage prolonged stress that affects IBD, it is essential to prioritize proper self-care practices such as maintaining a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, exercising regularly and seeking professional help when necessary. Correct breathing techniques can also help alleviate stress by releasing energy trapped inside the body.
It is important for individuals with IBD to remember that they cannot always control what happens to them but they can control how they react to it. Engaging in routine daily actions like exercise or physical activity can provide a sense of control over one’s life while changing negative thought patterns can also improve mental health and overall quality of life. If mental distress persists despite taking self-care measures or medication therapy for inflammatory bowel disease, consulting with a mental health provider should be considered to ensure optimal management of both conditions simultaneously.
For those who need support or advice on managing their condition alongside their mental health concerns, contact the hotline number of the association supporting Crohn’s and colitis patients at 03-7441391 (Sunday-Thursday 19:00-22:00). For more information on support services visit www.ccfi.co