Living with Crohn’s disease or other inflammatory bowel diseases can be stressful. Add in work, doctor’s appointments, and not feeling well, and it’s a recipe for disaster.
When the body is stressed, blood is shunted away from your midsection and moves peripherally, to your arms and legs. This leads to decreased oxygenation of the gut and decreased metabolism. Stress also unleashes an army of hormones, which can lead to a flare in bowel symptoms. While you can’t eliminate all stress, you can change your habits to reduce its effects on a daily basis.
Here are four surprising ways to treat Crohns Disease by managing stress:
The American Journal of Gastroenterology published results of a Canadian study in 1998, which found a twelve-week walking program of 30 minutes, three times per week, showed physical and psychological improvement for patients with Crohn’s disease. The moderate exercise did not flare a patient’s symptoms. (Consult your physician before starting any exercise program.)
2. Diaphragmatic Breathing
In this simple exercise, put your hand on your belly, watch your belly expand with air as you inhale, and contract as you exhale. Diaphragmatic breathing stimulates the vagus nerve, which turns off your ‘fight or flight’ stress response, and encourages your relaxation response to turn on. You are also massaging the digestive organs and stimulating blood flow.
A study in the February 2014 issue of the Journal of Crohn’s and Colitis found that mindfulness could help inflammatory bowel disease patients improve their quality of life. Mindfulness is a mental state of openness, awareness, and focus. Take time to be aware of your surroundings, without judgment. Be mindful of the emotions that rise and fall, of your thoughts and your body sensations. Courses in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, or MBSR, are taught all over the country. Mindfulness has also been shown to reduce stress and raise emotional intelligence.
When you journal, you use both your right brain (creativity, feelings) and left brain (the act of writing) at the same time. It can help clarify thoughts, process conflicts, and reduce stress. In addition, it will help you identify your symptoms, track your progress, and list your future goals. Writing in a journal is time to release the many thoughts in your head, and hopefully, let them go. You can write your story as if you were a character in a Hollywood blockbuster or even a sitcom. Allow your creative juices flow, and have fun!
About Guest Author
Dr. Poorvi Shah is an Integrative medicine physician and wellness expert, specializing is mind body techniques to help patients lead healthy, balanced lives. For more information, visit her website.