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Stress can play havoc with your digestive system. Here’s how | Health

Stress in the times of pandemic has increased to dangerous levels as various studies confirm that more than 70-75% of Indians are reporting stress-related issues. Coping with this new normal, we are inviting a host of illnesses from obesity, heart diseases, depression to asthma that stem out of stress.

Stress may alter the way our body functions, including our digestive system. Many studies show that stressful life events are associated with several digestive conditions including Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD).

“Stress may cause abnormalities of behavior and/or mentalities, such as anxiety and depression and influence the function of visceral organs, especially the digestive system. Stress from different sources results in modifications of the brain-gut axis, which eventually leads to the progression of a wide range of gastrointestinal disorders. The frequently involved diseases include IBD, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Peptic Ulcers, food antigen allergic reactions, and Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD),” says Dr. Rakesh Patel, Senior Gastroenterologist, Fortis Hospital Kalyan.

ALSO READ: Feeling leisure is wasteful and unproductive increases stress, depression: Study

What is Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)?

“Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), which includes Ulcerative Colitis (UC) & Crohn’s Disease (CD), is a chronic, relapsing, and remittent intestinal inflammatory disorder affecting millions of people worldwide. Various factors, such as genetic transmission, intestinal immune disruption, gut microbiota disturbance, diet, infection, lifestyle, psychological stress, sleep disorders, smoking, and early life exposure to antibiotics, have been found to influence the progress of IBD, based on studies in recent decades,” says Dr. Patel.

Symptoms of IBD

IBD symptoms may vary from person to person depending on the severity of inflammation and where it occurs. Symptoms may range from mild to severe. Patients are likely to have periods of active illness followed by periods of remission. The signs and symptoms include:



Abdominal pain and cramping

Blood in your stool

Reduced appetite

Unintended weight loss

“It is important to see a doctor if you experience a persistent change in your bowel habits, or if you have any of the signs and symptoms of IBD. Although IBD usually isn’t fatal, it’s a serious disease that, in some cases, may cause life-threatening complications,” adds Dr. Patel.

Coping with stress

To reduce IBD flare-ups, it isn’t always enough to take your medication and stick with the treatment plan. It can also be helpful to find ways to lower your stress level.

Tips to manage stress:


Practice yoga.

Try biofeedback: A non-drug therapy that can teach you how to control your bodily functions. As a result, you learn how to lower your heart rate and release muscle tension when under stress.

Mindful eating is known to help as stress induces either binge eating episodes or anorexia.

Following a specific type of diet is important. It is better to follow a vegetarian diet as meat consumption increase flares in IBD.

Self-care is an important factor in reducing stress.

Make sure you get at least seven to eight hours of sleep per night.

Learning how to say no can also reduce stress.

Exercise prompts your brain to release neurotransmitters that affect your mood and help relieve Depression and Anxiety. Exercise also has an anti-inflammatory effect. Aim for 30 minutes of physical activity at least three to five times a week.

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