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Neuroimmunomodulation. 2006;13(5-6):327-36. Epub 2007 Aug 6.

The role of psychological stress in inflammatory bowel disease.

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  • 1Centre for Gastroenterology, Institute of Cell and Molecular Science, Barts and the London, Queen Mary School of Medicine and Dentistry, and the Endoscopy Unit, Royal London Hospital, UK.


Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is an idiopathic inflammatory condition of the gastrointestinal tract whose natural history is one of periods of remission and relapse. The aetiology is complex and reflects an interaction between genes and environment. Psychological stress has long been reported by both doctors and patients as worsening disease activity in IBD. Prospective studies of the relationship between disease relapse and adverse life events have produced conflicting results, in part due to the inherent difficulties of such studies. However, several more recent analyses have suggested that both adverse life events and chronic perceived stress can contribute to disease relapse. There is also an increasing body of evidence to suggest that experimental stress can increase mucosal inflammation both in patients with IBD and in animal models of colitis. Despite this increase in understanding the pro-inflammatory effects of stress in IBD, thus far only a few limited studies have examined stress reduction as a therapeutic modality.

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