Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and its two subtypes, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, are complex conditions that are significantly influenced by mental health. Patients with these diseases may experience worsening physical symptoms that can lead to flare-ups, such as an increase in the amount of stool, an increased tendency to bleed and a decrease in the level of hemoglobin, fatigue and exhaustion.
In Israel, approximately 65,000 patients suffer from IBD, and the number is steadily increasing. While the exact causes of these diseases are not fully understood, they involve a complex relationship between several factors, including genetics, environmental factors and immune system issues. A recent article published in 2023 examined the connection between mental health problems and IBD symptoms, noting that there is an interaction between IBD and mental disorders such as anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which can negatively impact the course of the disease.
Research has shown that there are significant interactions between the brain and the digestive system. The digestive system has more nerve cells than the spine. Additionally, stress has a significant effect on the axis that connects the digestive system to the brain. This highlights how important it is for patients with IBD to pay attention to their mental health as well as their physical symptoms.
When dealing with prolonged stress affecting the course of a chronic illness like IBD, it is essential to prioritize self-care. This includes proper medical monitoring and treatment sequences during emergencies when basic needs may be neglected due to difficult events such as skipping meals or not getting enough sleep. Over time it is important to return to normal routines and activities such as eating properly and engaging in regular physical activity like walking or jogging.
If a person experiences severe mental health symptoms that do not improve over time or impair their quality of life despite making lifestyle changes or seeking professional help through community health workers or healthcare providers like those provided by Israeli health funds for Crohn’s Disease Foundation Israel (CCFI), then it’s important to seek immediate medical attention for proper diagnosis and treatment plan tailored specifically for each individual case.