How brighter mood might quell the fire of inflammatory bowel disease

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mood-lifting-therapies(NaturalHealth365)  Inflammatory bowel disease, a chronic autoimmune condition, affects over 1.3 million people in the United States.  Along with causing disruptive physical symptoms such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, and fatigue, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) can negatively impact mental health and quality of life.

Many forward-thinking holistic physicians maintain that stress, anxiety, and depression can influence the severity of IBD.  Now, peer-reviewed research from King’s College London, suggests they are on the right track.  If you struggle with IBD symptoms, you’ll want to see how mood-lifting interventions – and the resultant brighter outlook – can support digestive health.

Mood-lifting interventions lower inflammatory biomarkers associated with IBD

In a new systematic review involving over 1.700 participants and 28 randomized controlled trials (the “gold standard” of scientific research), researchers found that mood-lifting interventions reduced the inflammation associated with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis – the two most common forms of IBD.  The reduction was substantial, with the team reporting decreases of up to 20 percent (as compared to no interventions).  Researchers arrived at their findings by measuring inflammatory markers linked with IBD, including C-reactive protein and fecal calprotectin.

The team evaluated the effects of three different mood-lifting interventions: psychological therapies, physical exercise, and antidepressants.  The psychological therapies, which included cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), acceptance and commitment therapy, and mindfulness-based Stress reduction (MBSR), were the most effective in lowering inflammatory markers.  The more substantial the mood improvement, the lower the markers.  The researchers noted that mood-lifting interventions appeared to work through the parasympathetic nervous system to lower inflammation and regulate immune system function.

Fascinating insights from King’s College London

The research, conducted at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King’s College London, was published in eBiomedicine, a medical journal associated with The Lancet Discovery Science.  The review was the first to investigate the effect of mood-lifting interventions on levels of inflammatory markers in IBD.

The research shows that not only is a better mood linked to less inflammation, but these lower levels of inflammation appear to benefit mental health even further.  In addition, the team noted that mood-lifting interventions could help patients reduce their use of pharmaceutical drugs.  Lead author Natasha Seaton, a Ph.D. student at the college, pointed out that current medications for IBD can be costly and feature adverse side effects.  For example, corticosteroids used to treat IBD are linked with an increased risk of osteoporosis and high blood pressure, while non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can damage the delicate stomach lining.

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Target IBD through stress reduction and dietary changes

In addition to utilizing “talk therapy” and exercise, you can alleviate stress and improve your mood naturally through a variety of holistic techniques, including biofeedback, yoga, aromatherapy, acupuncture, Tai Chi, mindfulness meditation, and guided imagery.

Of course, stress is not the only factor that can influence IBD.  Poor nutrition, autoimmune problems, and environmental toxins may contribute, and family genetics likely also play a role.  To help manage symptoms, many holistic practitioners advise an autoimmune protocol diet.  This anti-inflammatory routine involves eliminating grains, gluten, dairy, hydrogenated oils, sugar, artificial sweeteners, and highly processed foods.  While many people affected by IBD report improvement with this diet, check first with your physician or health coach before embarking on any new dietary program.

Support digestive health with appropriate supplements and nutrients

In addition, probiotics such as lactobacillus acidophilus can help quench inflammation, reinforce the stomach lining, and balance the gut microbiome.  (Don’t forget – a healthy gut microbiome contributes to effective immune system function and stable mood, two significant benefits when managing IBD.)

Holistic doctors may also recommend fennel, chamomile, or ginger tea to soothe a troubled gut.  Finally, some people affected by IBD report that the amino acid glutamine can help ease symptoms.  Check with your holistic doctor before trying glutamine to address IBD.

The impressed researchers concluded that mood-lifting interventions may be an “effective, low-cost treatment for IBD.”  It’s worth pointing out that two of them (talk therapy and exercise) are natural, holistic, and drug-free.  This exciting research helps to illuminate the undeniable link between body and mind and attests to the importance of caring for both.

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