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Can Improving One’s Mood Help with Inflammatory Bowel Disease?

Most people know first-hand that they feel better when in a good mood. What they may only sometimes be aware of are the details about what those mood-boosting feelings are doing to the inside of their body. New research has emerged, sharing the results of a study conducted to see if improving one’s mood helps those with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The results are published in the February 2024 issue of The Lancet [1].

IBD is comprised of two conditions referred to as Crohn’s and Colitis. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, IBD is characterized by chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract [2]. The prolonged inflammation of the digestive tract leads to damage and various symptoms. The symptoms that are common with IBD include abdominal pain, diarrhea, rectal bleeding, and fatigue.

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Knowing that inflammation in the body leads to more symptoms and a worsening of IBD, researchers wanted to find out if improving one’s mood could improve the condition. They looked at various effective ways to improve mood, including psychological therapy, mindfulness-based stress reduction, exercise, antidepressants, etc. They did a meta-analysis of 28 randomized controlled trials that involved nearly 1,800 patients who met the inclusion criteria.

The trials looked at inflammatory markers in the body to see if there was any change once the person had taken part in activities that would improve their mood. Measurements of common biomarkers for inflammation in the body were taken, including C-reactive protein. The results showed a small but significant effect on the biomarkers and medium effects on mood outcomes. They found a small improvement in fecal calprotectin and C-reactive protein levels. Their analysis also found that the mood intervention that led to the most improvement in biomarkers was psychological therapy, compared to antidepressants and exercise.

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This research supports the idea that stress reduction, which improves mood, has a positive impact on lowering inflammation in those with IBD. This may lead to a reduction in abdominal pain and other systems. The researchers of the report suggest that engaging in mood interventions can reduce levels of inflammation by 18% and that it is an effective and low-cost alternative treatment for IBD.

Those who want to incorporate some mood-boosting interventions may want to consider psychological therapy, meditation, gratitude practice, journaling, and mindfulness. With the exception of psychological therapy, these interventions can be done at home and without spending any money, or very little, to get started and maintain the practice.

This article was originally published on Confronting Chronic Pain by Dr. Steven Richeimer, Director Pain Medicine Master and Certificate.

Sources:

  1. The Lancet. Do interventions for mood improve inflammatory biomarkers in inflammatory bowel disease? A systemic review and meta-analysis. February 2024.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What is inflammatory bowel disease?

This article was originally published on Confronting Chronic Pain by Dr. Steven Richeimer, Director Pain Medicine Master and Certificate.

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