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IBD Treatment: The Impact of Psychotherapy on Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Author: Dan Klco, Clinical Director, Nomina Integrated Health Winnipeg, CD, MACP, RCC, CPA

Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD) encapsulates an array of debilitating gastrointestinal disorders that include Ulcerative Colitis (UC) and Crohn's Disease (CD). These disorders manifest in a wide range of distressing symptoms such as inflammation, bloating, and pain, making the daily life of an affected individual uncomfortable at best. While medical science has not yet discovered a definitive cure, symptom management remains the primary course of action.

One of the more challenging aspects of IBD is the mystery surrounding its root cause. Our current understanding points towards a genetic component; however, this only forms a part of a complex jigsaw puzzle. Thankfully, a beacon of hope has emerged from a somewhat unexpected quarter—advanced psychotherapy for those battling IBD. Groundbreaking research suggests it can alleviate symptoms, even bringing about remission significantly.

To comprehend the role of psychotherapy in IBD, one must first grasp the critical mind-gut connection. The human survival response—fight, flight, freeze, or fold—essentially puts our digestive system on hold to conserve resources for handling imminent threats. Once the danger subsides, the digestive system should resume its regular function. However, in our modern, stress-filled lives, the body may erroneously remain in a constant state of survival mode.

Eating while in a survival response can hinder digestion and nutrient absorption. Moreover, the strain of operating an organ under duress can lead to microtissue damage. Over time, these damages could accumulate, potentially leading to chronic conditions such as IBD. Further evidence supporting a psychological link in IBD lies in the fact that anti-anxiety and anti-depression medications often provide symptomatic relief.

Adept therapists can guide patients in addressing the deep-seated causes of their mental health issues. Restructuring maladaptive defence mechanisms can help the body disengage from the survival response when faced with non-threatening stimuli. This shift allows the body to return to the "rest and digest" mode, returning the digestive system to full functionality.

While the efficacy of psychotherapy in IBD symptom management is gaining recognition, it's crucial to note that stress management alone isn't a panacea. The key lies in identifying and altering subconscious mechanisms. The first step in this transformative journey involves a discussion with your doctor and a skilled psychotherapist.

The science is clear: psychotherapy holds promise as a tool to help manage IBD symptoms. But remember, it isn't a standalone solution—it complements ongoing medical treatment.

Struggling with IBD? Consider the power of psychotherapy for IBD treatment. As the Clinical Director of Nōmina Integrated Health, our team and I can assist in unravelling your mind-gut connection and improving your well-being.


Arfaoui D, et al. "Psychological disorder associated with inflammatory bowel disease." Tunis Med. 2007.

Feng, L, et al. "Co-occurrence of gut microbiota dysbiosis and bile acid metabolism alteration is associated with psychological disorders in Crohn's disease." FASEB J. 2022.

Bonaz, B. L., & Bernstein, C. N. "Brain-gut interactions in inflammatory bowel disease." Gastroenterology, 2013.

Paulides, E, MD, et al. "The Effect of Psychotherapy on Quality of Life in IBD Patients: A Systematic Review," Inflammatory Bowel Diseases, 2021.

Mikocka-Walus, A., et al. "Antidepressants in inflammatory bowel disease." Nat Rev Gastroenterol Hepatol 2020.


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