Why Stress Matters
Stress is an important factor in almost every disease, and I know first hand that this is true of ulcerative colitis. But why?
The short version is that stress is directly linked with the key symptom and/or factor in ulcerative colitis & Crohn’s disease; inflammation. Stress is a causal factor and the link between stress and inflammation is not tenuous as outdated literature might have you believe.
Stress has been found to act via multiple pathways to induce inflammation. One example, is in the later stages of stress (as with chronic stress), stress leads to a measurable increase in pro-inflammatory cytokine production. There are multiple studies attesting to this and I’ve included one here for you to review:
Another study states that “considerable evidence has accumulated that psychological stress does indeed contribute to the risk of relapse in IBD. Furthermore, laboratory research has indicated a variety of mechanisms by which stress can affect both the systemic and gastrointestinal immune and inflammatory responses.”
You can see that study here:
And here’s an article that mentions a way in which stress plays a role in inflammatory bowel disease that is probably familiar to some people, and is one of the pathways that makes a lot of sense to me:
The article talks about how stress increases intestinal permeability. And intestinal permeability, as a lot of people with (or well versed in) autoimmune disease now know, is a major causal factor of inflammation. The rationale is that undigested proteins and bacteria are allowed to pass through the compromised epithelial and mucosal lining into the bloodstream. The body recognises these foreign invaders as bad and zaps them, creating inflammation.
Ok, so stress is a major causal factor in inflammation & disease, but what can we do about managing our stress better?
Well it’s mostly chronic stress that we’re concerned about here. Chronic stress occurs when key areas of our life are out of alignment and worrisome thoughts infect both our conscious and subconscious minds for a longer period of time than would be deemed useful.
Stress has this similarity with inflammation. Stress at the right times is very useful, as with the increased production of adrenaline in times of danger, for example. And inflammation is particularly useful (and required) for wound healing.
But what about when stress and inflammation occur when they are not needed, and for extended periods of time? The result is quite often sickness & disease.
There are several key areas of our lives that can be out of alignment, and they are different for everyone. Some, however, seem to be critically important to almost everyone in today’s world. They are:
Do you recognize one or more of these as currently being out of alignment in your life right now?
I will focus on each of these areas in separate articles since they are all deserving of significant attention. For now though, I encourage you look at each of these areas of your life and give it a rating out of 10. This will give you a clear picture of where you can improve, and allow you to focus efforts on bringing these areas of your life back into alignment.
Of course, working on these areas is not necessarily easy, but they are all important. Note: sometimes, just beginning work on them can provide you with the relief that you need.
So ask yourself:
What should you be doing that you are not doing currently to manage your stress?
What steps could you take in the next 2 weeks that would positively impact **** area of your life?
Why are you not taking these steps?