Inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD), including Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis, are chronic conditions that can have a significant impact on a patient’s mental state. Research has shown that patients with these conditions may experience a worsening of physical symptoms to the point of a flare-up of the disease. Symptoms such as an increase in stools, increased bleeding, decreased hemoglobin levels, fatigue, and exhaustion are common in patients with IBD.
In Israel, approximately 65,000 individuals suffer from IBD and the number of cases is steadily increasing. While the underlying causes of these diseases are not fully understood, they are believed to be related to a complex interplay between genetic, environmental factors, and immune system issues. A 2023 article examined the relationship between mental difficulties and IBD symptoms and found that there is a mutual influence between these conditions and mental disorders such as anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The article highlights the significant interactions between the brain and digestive system and notes that stress has a significant effect on this axis. Prolonged stress can exacerbate the course of chronic diseases like IBD. To deal with prolonged stress that affects the course of IBD, it is crucial to prioritize self-care by ensuring proper drug treatment and medical follow-up. It is also important to practice correct breathing techniques as it helps stop the “fight or flight” mode that traps energy inside and causes muscle contractions. Additionally, understanding that we cannot always control what happens to us but can control how we respond to it can help regain an experience of control through routine daily actions such as changing thoughts that do not help us and increasing physical activity.
If mental distress persists for an extended period with symptoms negatively impacting quality of life, seeking help from mental health providers in the community or through health funds is critical. This recommendation is particularly important for individuals with IBD as maintaining normal mental health is essential for managing their condition effectively. For more information or support services for patients with Crohn’s or colitis in Israel, contact 03-7441391 during Sunday-Thursday from 19:00-22:00 or visit www.ccfi.co.il for additional resources and guidance.