Have you ever wondered why your stomach might feel queasy if you’re nervous? Or why you lose your appetite if you’re worried?
Your stomach and your mental state share a connection. Unfortunately, for those with Crohn’s disease and colitis, a stressed and overloaded mental state can cause a lot more havoc than just a little queasiness.
Gastroenterologist Eric Ibegbu, MD, and our compassionate team at Atlantic Medical Group know how debilitating these diseases can be and how they can keep you from enjoying your life. Dr. Ibegbu is an expert when it comes to diagnosing and treating inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
In the meantime, keep reading to explore the link between stress and inflammatory bowel diseases, and find out what you can do to reduce your stress.
Stress can trigger a flare-up ...
Both Crohn’s disease and colitis are inflammatory diseases and can cause a variety of uncomfortable symptoms including:
- Unintentional weight loss
- Stomach pain
- Blood in your stool
Inflammation in your GI tract causes these symptoms, and many people experience inflammation in cycles. This means you might have a handle on your symptoms and then suddenly something triggers a flare-up.
A flare-up is a reappearance (or worsening) of your symptoms. There are many things that can trigger a flare-up including missing your medication or taking the wrong dose, eating foods that irritate your GI tract, or even drinking carbonated beverages.
Many studies also show that stress can trigger a flare-up. Stress doesn’t have to be a big event like moving to a new house. Everyday stressors can trigger a flare-up.
But why does an everyday stressor affect your gut health? The brain and digestive system are connected. This brain-gut connection allows your stomach to prepare for a meal by releasing stomach acids when you start thinking about food.
But the brain-gut connection goes both ways, which means mental stress can affect your gut health. This explains why you might feel butterflies in your stomach if you’re nervous.
This, unfortunately, also explains how psychological stress can impact your digestive health and trigger a flare-up in your symptoms.
… and flare-ups can cause stress
Stress doesn’t just cause a flare-up; a flare-up can cause more mental stress, too. It’s a vicious cycle. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your symptoms, you might feel stressed out.
Regardless of whether stress triggered a flare-up or your flare-up triggered a stress response, you need to manage your stress levels. You can do that with:
- Deep breathing (shifts your body away from flight-or-fight mode)
- Exercising or even just walking around the block
- Spending time in nature
- Listening to calming music
- Spending time enjoying a favorite hobby
You can also reduce flare-ups (and potential stress) by managing your symptoms. This includes continuing to take your medications and/or supplements as prescribed.
What to do if your flare-ups occur more and more
Stress management goes a long way in supporting your overall mental and physical health, but sometimes stress management alone just isn’t enough. If you’re struggling with flare-up after flare-up, we can help.
Here at Atlantic Medical Group, it’s our mission to help you get the relief you need so you can live the life you want. For troublesome cases that don’t respond to medication, we may suggest surgery.
To explore your treatment options for Crohn’s disease or colitis, call our Kinston or Jacksonville, North Carolina, office today. You can also visit us online to request an appointment.