Does stress cause Colitis or Crohn's attacks as many suggest or is it just hearsay?

Just recently while driving into work, and listening to a popular talk show in the Detroit, MI area WJR 760, the announcer said something that immediately caught my attention. The topic of this particular morning segment happened to be Colitis. And the reason that this particular digestive disorder happened to take such a prominent place in the lineup of news issues of the day, was because the Mayor of the city of Detroit...Mayor Dave Bing had recently been hospitalized for a particularly severe attack of Colitis...so severe in fact that he had to be admitted to the hospital, and receive emergency surgery to repair a perforated intestine caused by the disease. As part of the show prep, radio announcer Paul W. Smith had selected an area physician to interview and get information to the listeners about Colitis, including, what were the symptoms, and some of the possible causes of the disease.

One of the first questions that Paul W. Smith asked the doctor, was did he think the cause for the Mayor's Colitis might be due to the high degree of stress that he had been under over the past several months in trying to solve the huge debt problem that the city of Detroit was experiencing and the threat of possible bankruptcy. Paul W. Smith commented that he had heard that stress was a very important contributor to the cause of Colitis or digestive disorders like it. The doctor responded that in his opinion stress was not in fact the probable cause, suggesting instead, that it was more likely the effects of the Mayor taking antibiotics that led to the mayors Colitis condition. The doctor said that antibiotics, when they are consumed, tend to kill the good bacteria as well as the bad that exist in our bodies, specifically the stomach and digestive tract. The good bacteria exists in our stomach for the purpose of digesting our food. Without these vital bacteria in the stomach, proper digestion is disrupted, which in turn causes the stomach disorder Colitis.

However, I have a question as to if maybe the radio announcer might have been right in suggesting that stress could have been the major cause for the Mayor's Colitis attack. Many of the people I have written to recently about this possibility, who are actually Colitis sufferers themselves tend to agree that stress really could be the major contributor.

First of all, I have no idea if the Mayor did take antibiotics prior to his attack of Colitis or not, or whether it was the primary contributor to his condition. However, when I put the question of stress and its impact on their condition to other people who also suffer from either Colitis or the similar digestive disease, Crohn's disease, they agreed unanimously that stress was the most significant and long standing contributor to their relapses of Colitis/Crohn's than anything else they could think of. I have suffered with Crohns disease myself for many years (a digestive disorder related to Colitis) and I can definitely say that my flare-ups many times have coincided with heightened stress periods in my life, like during work, job loss, divorce, school or the loss of a close relative.

One gentleman from Minnesota responded to me in an e-mail with this statement: "There has been a lot of research done on stress and how it affects your body. It's not good. My own experience is even though the onset of the disease was antibiotic driven, every flare up since then (20 years ago) can be linked directly to a very stressful period in my life. Even while on maintenance meds, if a lengthy stressful period is occurring, I can almost count on a flare up. This one was brought on during a work project that had me traveling a LOT and things were not going well and 3 weeks into being gone from home, I had to return to go see the doc."

A person from the United Kingdom wrote: "I have never had any issues with my gut, and the first time I noticed any symptoms was just after my husband had an invasive cardiac procedure a year ago."

Another contributor wrote that while he didn't think stress was the cause of his Colitis he was diagnosed with, he definitely believes that it does make his symptoms worse.

One woman wrote that many of her past flare-ups were stress related, usually when she was experiencing a lot of stress either at work or at home. Her doctors however told her that stress was not the cause. Another person wrote "Anytime I am super stressed I get a belly ache. So I do believe that stress plays a big role in developing disease."

So the end result is this... for many Colitis/Crohn's disease suffers, stress really is an important contributor to flare-ups and steps need to be taken to reduce it in their lives in order to experience any relief from their digestive disorder.

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