Inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD), including Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis, can be significantly affected by mental health. Patients with these conditions may experience a worsening of physical symptoms, leading to a flare-up of the disease. Symptoms may include an increase in stools, increased tendency to bleed, decreased hemoglobin levels, fatigue and exhaustion.
In Israel, approximately 65,000 patients suffer from IBD, and the number is on a continuous upward trend. The causes of these diseases are not fully understood, but they include genetic, environmental factors and factors 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 IBDs and mental disorders such as anxiety, depression and post-traumatic disorder which may have a negative effect on the course of the disease.
It is known that there are significant interactions between the brain and digestive system, with more nerve cells in the digestive system than in the spine. Stress has been shown to have a significant impact on this axis connecting the digestive system to the brain. Dealing with prolonged stress that affects chronic diseases requires careful consideration of drug treatment and medical follow-up when needed. It’s also important to prioritize self-care by eating in an orderly manner, getting enough sleep and engaging in regular physical activity like walking or jogging for energy release purposes. Understanding that we cannot control everything but can control our response to it can also help regain a sense of control through routine daily actions and changing thoughts that do not help us maintain our mental state as well as maintaining our IBD condition