Psychological stress is known to aggravate intestinal inflammation caused by certain bowel diseases. Now scientists have discovered why. New study depicts a sweeping narrative that begins with chemical indications produced in the brain and ends with immune system cells in the intestine - a sequence that causes problems for people with these diseases.
The work, published a few days ago in the journal Cell, explains how chronic stress can cause physical discomfort. And it implies that management of stress levels can have a profound effect on the effectiveness of treatments for inflammatory bowel disease. This idea contradicts conventional medical therapy, which has "completely neglected the psychological state of a patient as a key lever in response to the treatment," says study by study Christoph Thaiss, a microbiologist at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.
The ability of the brain to lead inflammation to distant organs "seems to be much stronger" than we thought before, says Thaiss. This suggests that the drugs for the irritable intestine, combined with stress management techniques, would be a more effective treatment.