Relax !

My dear patients !

Relax !

I am serious. As simple and even trivial this stereotyped phrase sounds, I am dead serious. 

Please ensure to actively and consciously relax every single day. Because even if it feels different, your not at stress`s mercy. There are possibilities to resist stress. And it is mandatory to use these possibilities.

And this is  – as the whole issue of stress – not IBD specific. Yet I write it with emphasis here in my blog for IBD patients since it is so important for you as a patient with IBD.  Because you all know how much stress affects the intestine and even the course of IBD. 

There are 10.000 things you can do to relax actively and to prevent stress. Thick books have been written about it. But with a lot of the methods mentioned there I am not familiar and do not know enough to write about it.  For example yoga. There has been quite some research on how yoga can have an positive affect on patients with IBD, Crohn`s disease and ulcerative colitis. It is impressing to read. Except … I don`t know enough about yoga.

But I want to give you something, that is more concrete than just : relax ! And I always think it important that things are practical and feasible. Simple, so that you read and know: Ah, ok, that`s how I can start the whole thing, that`s an approach.

And so I will write something very simple, which I am quite imformed about. Not because I have studied it for a long time but because it´s just that simple.

Breathe. Breathe in order to activate the parasympathetic nervous system. Because activation of the parasympathetic nervous system is what is effective against stress. And really can lead to stress resistence in the long term. 

I have been writing, that stress has a really concret correlation in the nervous system. And I don`t know any other way to affect the nervous system and especially the parasympathetic nervous system more effectively than by breathing. 

Slow deep breath reduces stress. It is like pushing a button.

The impact of breathing exercises has been investigated many times. It works. And I will write here very short and simple how it can work. Please feel free to read more about it if you are interested in more details about the effects of breathing and breathing exercises. Just google: stress reduction breathing exercises or just breathing exercises or effects of breathing exercises. You will find something that fits for you I am sure. 

I enjoy things that work and are effective. I enjoy it when medication works, when certain nutrition works, when physical exercise works and that`s why I love breathing techniques. 

... breathe !

Start today. Seriously today. When you are finished with reading: sit down, close your eyes (yes, that helps a lot), and off we go.

Find a place where nobody is disturbing you or where you won`t let anybody disturbe you. The kitchen chair, the desk. (I use ma daily trainride to work). A certain time and acertain place will help you to anchor the experience. (And yes, set the alarm clock earlier is a great idea !)

Warning: In case you are not familiar with relaxation techniques at all, you might find it – and yourself in it – a little “weird”. But that doesn`t matter, just go for it. 

So sit down, close your eyes …  and then  …  slow …  down  …  your  …  breath …

Breathe conscioulsy. Breathe deeply into yout stomach.

You can for example slowly count to four while inhaling and exhaling and than have a little break in between inhalation and exhalation (count 1… 2….) 

Important: Breathe into your stomach (And to avoid confusion: we all breathe always and exclusively into our lungs. But when the diaphragm ( the muscle between chest and belly)  pulls far down it feels like breathing into the stomach. The improtant thing while doing this is the nerve, which inervates the diaphragm. It is this nerve, that is the linked to the vagusnerve. see below)

That`s why we talk about diaphragmatic breathing. And this kind of breathing, slowly performed (and slowly means 6 breaths per minute) activates the nervus vagus or vagus nerve. That is the largest nerve of the parasympathetic nervous system (And parasympathetic nervous system was the nervous system that mediates – right ! – relaxation.) 

Tha vagus nerve follows from the brain through the whole body. It spreads into nerve fibres which reach almost every region of the body and every organ and signal: relax !

For example it signals relaxation to the heart: beat slowly, everything is alright, no danger ahead, nothing is going on ! Same thing for the lungs: slow and deep breaths, nothing is going on.

And secretion of hormons is regulated via this nerve. (And just for the sake of completeness: the vagus nerve can also medite antiinflammatory processes)

And as for all nerves also the vagus nerve communicates in both directions. Not just that the organs get the signal: relax ! but the other way round: the brain gets the information: no worries, everythings fine. Relax !

And that`s how the breathing exercises work: in case of deep and slow berathing over a certain period of time the brain gets the information of relaxation through the vagus nerve. And the brain enhances this mood. And again: that works as concrete as pushing a button.

When we breathe slowly and deeply, the brain thinks we are all relaxed and establishes that mood by further activating the vagus nerve and the parasympathetic nerval system. Relaxation gets enhaced.

(Thats by the way exactly how the thing with the good mood works.  When we pull the corner of our mouths up for a while, no matter how much effort it takes us at first, the brain figueres we actually do smile, so there must be a reason to smile and to be in a good mood and at one point enhances this mood)

The sentence that gives a good summary of this mechanisms is: the emotion depends in the interpretation of the physiological condition. (means condition of the bodies function)

The brain interpretates the breathing. Slow breath, slow beathing = relaxation.

6 breaths per minute. That is the goal. 6 breaths / minute do have an effect.

Start slowly, in the beginning 3 to 5 minutes seem like eternity. But keep on practicing and stretch the episodes up tp 15 minutes or even 30 minutes.

And now don`t come up with: I don`t have time… !

As plain and simple as I write this here, this is about nothing less than the possibility to gain more stability with your IBD by gaining some stress resistance.

Breathing and conscious, slow breathing need practice. You have to practice daily, to see results. You ave to commit to it. But if you do so and keep it up – it is a great method to calm down and relax.

Try… no. Just do it.

What I write about the next time I don`t know yet. I hove not less than 100 ideas. 

Take care everybody and best regards, 

Yours Dr. Susanne Weyrauch

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