Although stress doesn't cause Crohn's disease, it can make your signs and symptoms much worse and may trigger flare-ups. Stressful events can range from minor annoyances to a move, job loss or the death of a loved one. Every flare-up and even my initial diagnosis can be directly related to stress. Almost every Chron's Disease patient I talk to or hear about supports a simple fact. There is a link between Crohn's and Stress.
It is basic science (and common sense). When you're stressed, your normal digestive process changes. Your stomach empties more slowly and secretes more acids. Stress can also speed or slow the passage of intestinal contents. It may also cause changes in intestinal tissue itself. For someone with Crohn's this stress often leads to falre ups
Although it's not always possible to avoid stress, you can learn ways to help manage it. Some of these include:
Exercise. Even mild exercise can help reduce stress, relieve depression and normalize bowel function. Talk to your doctor about an exercise plan that's right for you.
Biofeedback. This stress-reduction technique helps you reduce muscle tension and slow your heart rate with the help of a feedback machine. You're then taught how to produce these changes yourself. The goal is to help you enter a relaxed state so that you can cope more easily with stress. Biofeedback is usually taught in hospitals and medical centers. For me....soccer, running and lifting weights all reduce my stress. They also give me incentive to eat better. Less stress and better diet = Healthier Living = Crohn's Flare Up Control. If you are having a flare up, I feel that these things can also bring you out of it.
Regular relaxation and breathing exercises. An effective way to cope with stress from Crohn's disease is to regularly relax and exercise. You can take classes in yoga and meditation or practice at home using books or tapes.
You can also practice progressive relaxation exercises. These help relax the muscles in your body, one by one. Start by tightening the muscles in your feet, then concentrate on slowly letting all the tension go. Next, tighten and relax your calves. Continue until muscles in your body, including those in your eyes and scalp, are completely relaxed.
Deep breathing also can help you relax. Most adults breathe from their chests. But you become calmer when you breathe from your diaphragm — the muscle that separates your chest from your abdomen. When you inhale, allow your belly to expand with air; when you exhale, your abdomen naturally contracts. Deep breathing can also help relax your abdominal muscles, which may lead to more normal bowel activity.
Hypnosis. Hypnosis may reduce abdominal pain and bloating. A trained professional teaches you how to enter a relaxed state and then guides you as you imagine your intestinal muscles becoming smooth and calm.
Other techniques. Set aside at least 20 minutes a day for any activity you find relaxing — listening to music, reading, playing computer games or just soaking in a warm bath.
Bottom Line: Whatever you can do to reduce stress in your life will have a positive impact on your Crohn's.
Take care, be healthy and live a better life.