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Have you ever noticed an increase in symptoms after a stressful event? If so, you’re not alone.
Many people with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis report an increase in symptoms surrounding a stressful event or situation in their lives. But what does the research say about the connection between stress and symptoms?
In this article, we summarize the research on stress and IBD and share some tips for how you can reduce your stress, symptoms and likelihood of flares.
What is a Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis flare?
A flare or flare-up is when you have an increase in symptoms. Flares can occur when you have active disease (also referred to as active inflammation), or when you’re in remission without inflammation.
Can stress cause a Crohn’s or colitis flare up?
In a recent study of 417 people with IBD, people who experienced a life event in the previous 3 months were 1.8x more likely to flare than those who did not experience a life event. Similarly, people who experienced new perceived stress were 3x more likely to flare than those who didn’t experience new stressors.
While more research is needed, it appears that high perceived stress, new sources of stress, and the occurrence of life events may increase your risk of having a Crohn’s or colitis flare.
How to reduce your stress levels
Addressing stress may help reduce your risk for flares. Some ways to reduce stress include:
- Practicing mindfulness-based therapy
- Working with a psychologist or mental health provider
- Exercising regularly
- Planning for future stressors
How mindfulness-based therapy can improve IBD outcomes
Mindfulness-based therapy focuses on helping you be more mindful and aware of the present moment and bring more attention to your thoughts, bodily sensations, and emotions.
Examples of mindfulness-based therapy include:
- Body scanning
- Mindful breathing
- Guided meditation
- Thought management
- Cognitive behavior therapy
- Mindfulness-based stress reduction
Mindfulness-based activities have been suggested in research studies to
- Significantly decrease fecal calprotectin and c-reactive protein levels
- Double the odds of reporting better subjective wellbeing in Crohn’s disease
- Decrease the occurrence of bowel symptoms in people with Crohn’s disease
Get support to reduce your stress
If you’re in the middle of a flare or have noticed that stress triggers your symptoms, working with an IBD registered dietitian and gut psychologist can help.
Our IBD nutrition program focuses on addressing both your food and lifestyle triggers and can help you decrease your risk for future flares. Request a free consultation to learn if our program is right for you.
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