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How to deal with stress induced Inflammatory Bowel Diseases?

By  Dr. Rakesh Patel, Senior Gastroenterologist, Fortis Hospital Kalyan 

Stress is said to be the biggest trigger for many digestive issues such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). It can even chronic ailments and so it is important to understand how to identify and manage stress-related IBD. Here is what you should know.

What is Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)? 

inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), which includes Ulcerative Colitis (UC) & Crohn’s Disease (CD), is a chronic, relapsing, and remittent intestinal inflammatory disorder affecting millions of people worldwide. IBD is an immune-mediated intestinal disorder; various factors, such as genetic transmission, intestinal immune disruption, gut microbiota disturbance, diet, infection, lifestyle, psychological stress, sleep disorders, smoking, and early life exposure to antibiotics, have been found to influence the progress of IBD, based on studies in recent decades. A study carried out by a community representing Indian medical professionals and practitioners in India last year, estimated 1.5 million patients affected by IBD.

THE LINK BETWEEN STRESS AND IBD

 Stress may cause abnormalities of behavior and/or mentalities, such as Anxiety & Depression, and influence the function of visceral organs, especially the digestive system. Stress from different sources results in modifications of the brain-gut axis, which eventually leads to the progression of a wide range of gastrointestinal disorders. The frequently involved diseases include IBD, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Peptic Ulcers, food antigen allergic reactions, and Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD).

SYMPTOMS OF IBD: 

IBD symptoms may vary, depending on the severity of inflammation and where it occurs. Symptoms may range from mild to severe. Patients are likely to have periods of active illness followed by periods of remission. The signs and symptoms include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Abdominal pain and cramping
  • Blood in your stool
  • Reduced appetite
  • Unintended weight loss

WHEN TO SEE A DOCTOR? 

It is important to see a doctor if you experience a persistent change in your bowel habits, or if you have any of the signs and symptoms of IBD. Although IBD usually isn’t fatal, it’s a serious disease that, in some cases, may cause life-threatening complications.

EFFECTIVE DIAGNOSIS IS KEY. 

The diagnosis for IBD can be challenging sometimes. Many self-limited illnesses like bacterial infections and protozoal illnesses can mimic IBD on gross endoscopic and histologic findings. but do not last beyond a month. Sometimes differentiating between Tuberculosis and Crohn’s Disease becomes challenging that’s when therapeutic trials and follow-ups may be required for precise diagnosis.

HOW TO COPE WITH STRESS TO REDUCE THE IMPACT OF IBD?

 To reduce IBD flare-ups, it isn’t always enough to take your medication and stick with the treatment plan. It can also be helpful to find ways to lower your stress level. Here are some strategies to help you manage stress:

  • Meditate
  • Practice yoga
  • Try biofeedback: a non-drug therapy that can teach you how to control your bodily functions. As a result, you learn how to lower your heart rate and release muscle tension when under stress
  • Mindful eating is known to help as stress induces either binge eating episodes or Anorexia
  • Following a specific type of diet is important. It is better to follow a vegetarian diet as meat consumption increase flares in IBD
  • Self-care is an important factor in reducing stress
  • Make sure you get at least seven to eight hours of sleep per night
  • Learning how to say no can also reduce stress
  • Exercise prompts your brain to release neurotransmitters that affect your mood and help relieve Depression and Anxiety. Exercise also has an anti-inflammatory effect. Aim for 30 minutes of physical activity at least three to five times a week

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