Dealing with Stress and IBD

February 24, 2011

The fight or flight instinct is strong in most of us. When we are up against major times of stress, we can respond either way. We have heard about parents finding some heroic source of strength and being able to lift cars off their children hurt in accidents. On the other side of the coin, we see people who withdraw totally rather than deal with something that forces them outside of their comfort zone. They hide emotionally and physically, rather than resolve the problem. With the challenges of the economy and tumultuous world news, we all have been carrying extra stress. Stress, as we know, can be a trigger for individuals with IBD. The autoimmune system is compromised, and the disease can come out of remission. So, what can sufferers of inflammatory bowel disease do?Firstly, take a total inventory of the causes of stress. There are countless causes of stress in our everyday lives – parents and kids being involved with school; summer looming on the  horizon with possible visits from relatives, meals to prepare and coordinate; dealing with harsh winter weather, possible job losses, bills – the list goes on. Stress can produce cortisol, which comes from the adrenal glands. When cortisol remains in the body for too long, because of extended periods of stress, homocysteine levels are raised. These higher levels of homocysteine are linked to several systems in our bodies and pose a particular challenge for people with IBD. Once we have considered what it is that is affecting our lives, we need to put those issues into perspective and develop as stressless an environment as possible. It may seem difficult at times, but getting a handle on some of these issues instead of letting them control us will calm things down. Getting plenty of rest and refraining from extra alcohol and caffeine is the first step in taking control. Remember, it's easy for any of us to go off our diets during long winter days and nights, but it's important for everyone to  maintain their healthy nutritional regimen. It's absolutely vital for people with IBD. So, remember to eat properly and drink water. Stay away from too many fatty foods, because they can be a major problem. Be sure to include green vegetables in your diets, particularly those rich in fiber and folic acid. Folic acid helps lower homocysteine and is good for handling stressors. A warning, though – it is extremely important for individuals with IBD to use the "fork test" when it comes to vegetables and cook them to the point where you can easily stick your fork into them. The next time you are faced with stress that seems to be producing a flight or fight response, don't let it overcome you. Remember to take care of yourself. * Do you live with IBD? Peter shows how developing and maintaining a healthy lifestyle can win the battle against this debilitating disease. Watch Living with IBD on Peters Principles TV!

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