Individuals who suffer from irritable bowel disease have long believed that their symptoms are affected by their levels of stress. Until recently, there has been little scientific evidence to support that opinion.
The results of a study that analyzed factors which caused a worsening of IBD symptoms appeared in the April 6, 2010 issue of the American Journal of Gastroenterology. Charles N. Bernstein, M.D., and a team of researchers surveyed participants every three months for one year. A total of 552 participants who were chosen from a population based IBD research study completed the trial. Following a baseline survey, the researchers kept track of the participants’ use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs, antibiotics, occurrence of infections, major life events, moods, and perceived stress. At the same time, the incidence of IBD symptoms was assessed and rated. The participants were categorized according to their incidence of symptoms. The categories included having a flare, having no flare, or remaining active.
In the final analysis of the collected data, 174 participants experienced a flare and 209 participants experience no flare. No difference was noted between the two groups in the use of NSAIDs, antibiotics, or the occurrence of an infection. However, high perceived stress was associated with an increased rate of flare.
Dr. Bernstein and his colleagues theorize that there are biological reasons why a person with IBD responds to stress by having an onset or worsening of symptoms. Stress hormones may aid harmful bacteria to colonize in the colon and cause inflammation.The part of the nervous system which supplies the colon may be responding to perceived stress and causing IBD symptoms.
"This is among the first evidence to show that the perception of stress had a direct association with disease course," commented lead author Dr.Charles N. Bernstein (1).
(1) www.medscape.com “Stress May Be An IBD Trigger