Chronic inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) such as Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis, can have a significant impact on a patient’s mental state. Patients with these diseases may experience worsening of physical symptoms leading to flare-ups of the disease. Symptoms such as an increase in stools, increased tendency to bleed, decreased hemoglobin levels, fatigue and exhaustion are common among patients.
In Israel, approximately 65,000 people suffer from IBD and the number of patients is steadily increasing. The root causes of these diseases are not fully understood but include genetic factors, environmental factors, and immune system-related issues. A recent study in 2023 examined the relationship between mental health difficulties and IBD symptoms, finding that there is a mutual influence between them. This includes anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic disorder which can negatively affect the course of the disease.
The brain and digestive system have a complex relationship with each other and it has been found that the digestive system has more nerve cells than the spine. Stress can have a significant impact on this relationship causing problems such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Prolonged stress can exacerbate symptoms of IBD so it is important to prioritize self-care and take steps to reduce stress levels.
One way to manage prolonged stress is by being mindful of drug treatment and medical follow-up. It is important to eat regularly, get enough sleep and engage in physical activity such as walking or jogging to release pent-up energy. Deep breathing exercises can also help to reduce stress levels by allowing the body to relax its muscles and release tension in the intestines.
If mental distress persists over time with symptoms that harm quality of life, it is recommended to seek help from a mental health provider or contact a support group for IBD patients for guidance on managing their condition while maintaining good mental health.
For more information or support services for Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation International (CCFI) in Israel can be reached at 03-7441391 or through their website at www.ccfi.co.il