Is there a relationship between stress and diverticulitis and diverticulosis?
Diverticulitis is a medical condition that arises from diverticula-pouch-like bulges that become inflamed. They can be seen in the large intestine. Diverticula will not harm you and can be found in healthy adults who are age 40 and up. However, problems can occur if these pouches get infected.
It is thought that diverticula occur when the pressure of the intestines increases and the intestinal mucosa develops weak spots. This results in tiny bulges being formed. Diverticula are typically asymptomatic and are detected during prophylactic colonoscopies. If diverticula are infected, then there is a chance that they will burst. If they were to burst, the contents inside would be released to the large intestine’s exterior, which can cause numerous and serious complications.
Common symptoms include:
- Severe left sided abdominal pain
- Feeling queasy and throwing up
- A high temperature
- Pain in the abdomen
- Hard stools
- Loose stools (rare)
So one might ask, how is this medical condition linked to stress? Stress causes various illnesses because it puts a severe toll on the body. Thus, stress can aid in developing diverticulitis. Environmental causes have been the determining factor in 60% of these medical cases. The digestive system can experience stress if one eats a low fiber diet. High fat diets have also been known to cause this illness. This inflammatory illness is more commonly seen amongst the elderly, as compared to younger age groups.
While the exact link between stress and this medical condition is not well understood, it is known that stress causes inflammation. Inflammation is a factor that can potentially lead to the development of this illness. If a person is experiencing high volumes of daily stress, this can disrupt bodily functions as well as the digestive process. When the body is under high levels of stress, it responds in the same way as if being attacked by a bear. It turns on it’s fight or flight response mechanism and in turn directs more oxygen and blood to be sent to the brain and muscles. This change of resources pulls vital resources away from where they need to be to keep the body functionally optimally, which can lead to the development of problems in the body.
So, what occurs in stress-induced diverticulitis? As we all know, it is just not possible to evade all of life’s stressors and accomplish the tasks we need at the same time. What we can do, however, is learn how to control and manage stress levels before they get out of control. A great deal of the stress we feel daily is inflicted on ourselves. This means it could be changed should we properly determine from where it is coming. Is your profession inflicting stress upon you? Do you work in an environment that is filled with stressful deadlines? If so, you should think about your life and ponder: Do I need this specific job? Are there changes that can be made to reduce stress levels? Is it worth possibly getting sick over?
It is important to note that not all stress comes from work. Other sources of stress can be from personal relationships, mental or physical illnesses, or even from being unable to secure a good job. When stress levels get out of control, it is recommended that you seek professional help.
How can you treat this stress-induced medical condition? Here are a few ways:
RELAX. Taking time every day to relax. Develop a mantra like “Peace. Love. Hope” to help you meditate throughout the day. This can help ease anxiety, and even re-wire your brain to make you less prone to feeling stressed.
PRACTICE BREATHING. Take slow and deep breaths in and out to help you decrease stress. This can help reduce your heart rate and decrease hypertension.
LIVE IN THE MOMENT. Many times while we are accomplishing a task we are thinking about the next task at hand. Stop for a moment when things are busy and absorb the current moment. What is the weather like? How do you feel? Focusing on the moment can help decrease your stress by making you grateful and appreciative for what is going on around you now.
TALK TO FRIENDS. Set up a time to meet with your friends to help you decrease your stress levels. Having a sense of community and being social can help decrease anxiety. If you can’t meet up, opt to talk to a friend on the phone to work out your problems. Having a few good friends is vital to support a lifestyle that is healthy.
DECOMPRESS. Place a heating pad on your back and shoulders for 10 minutes to decrease pain in these high tension areas of your body. Try to relax every part of your body during this process. Burning some candles for aromatherapy can help ease anxiety too.
LAUGH. Laughing a little can make everything better by decreasing your stress and helping to lower cortisol levels in your body. It can also increase good endorphins in your body which can boost your mood if you’re feeling blue.
LISTEN TO MUSIC. Listening to music has been shown to decrease stress. It can decrease hypertension and feelings of nervousness. Listening to relaxing sounds, such as ocean waves or rainfall can help you to feel less stressed.
MOVE. Exercise for 30 minutes a day. Try something new like yoga or even running with your dog to help decrease anxiety and the blues.
COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS. Keep a journal of all of your blessings. When you’re feeling down or stressed, take a moment to review these blessings and you will feel much better.
EAT WELL. Following a diverticulitis diet that is good for you can help you stay healthy and decrease stress. Typically, we reach for junk foods to comfort ourselves during times of stress, which only make us feel worse. Incorporating broths, fruit juices, and ice pops when first diagnosed will help you heal faster. Then, slowly incorporating a regular diet of low-fiber foods is best prior to re-introducing high-fiber foods once again. A good source of low fiber foods include bread, meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy.
DIVERTICULITIS TEA. Teas such as the Calming Blends Diverticulitis Tea can help reduce inflammation and thus can aid in bettering or help prevent this illness.
SLEEP WELL. Not getting enough sleep can cause increased stress levels during the day. Get ready for a good night’s sleep by lighting candles and avoid electronics one hour before bedtime. Aim to get between 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep every night. If you cannot, try to nap during the day to make up for hours of lost sleep.