Inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) such as Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis, are not only physical conditions but also have a strong link with mental health. Patients suffering from these diseases may experience worsening of physical symptoms due to their mental state, including an increase in stools, bleeding, fatigue, and a decrease in hemoglobin levels.
In Israel, approximately 65,000 people live with IBD, and the number is steadily increasing. While the exact causes of these diseases are not fully understood, genetic factors, environmental influences, and immune system disorders play a role. A study published in 2023 examined the relationship between mental health difficulties and IBD symptoms. It found that there is a mutual influence between IBDs and mental disorders such as anxiety, depression, and PTSD which can negatively affect the course of the disease.
The brain-digestive system interaction is well known and has even been shown that the digestive system contains more nerve cells than the spine. Stress has been found to have a significant impact on this connection between the two systems. Therefore, dealing with prolonged stress that affects chronic illness requires careful attention to medication treatment plans and medical follow-up. It is also essential to prioritize self-care practices such as proper nutrition habits by eating regularly in an organized manner and ensuring adequate sleep. Additionally, correct breathing techniques can help reduce stress levels by releasing energy trapped in the body’s “fight or flight” mode. Understanding that one cannot control everything but can manage how they respond to it through routine daily actions can also promote mental stability during challenging times.
If long-term mental distress persists with symptoms that negatively impact quality of life, seeking professional help from mental health providers or contacting a support hotline for patients with Crohn’s and colitis may be necessary.
For more information or support services for patients with IBDs in Israel, contact 03-7441391 (Sunday-Thursday 19:00-22:00) or visit www.ccfi.co.il for guidance from an association supporting Crohn’s and colitis patients.
The importance of managing both physical and mental health should be given equal priority when dealing with inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis.