Person cupping a burning flame in a dark room. The flame behind their hands can only be seen in the reflection of their eyes.

Anger

I had a spiritually-oriented therapist once who suggested Crohn's disease could be exacerbated by suppression of feelings. She used to burn a candle during our session and start with a prayer. She also was big on the healing crystals, which, as far as I was concerned, were only marginally better than being sold a case of snake oil.

Emotions, feelings, and Crohn's disease

Understandably then, I was skeptical about the idea that suppression of feelings had anything to do with Crohn’s disease. But when I thought more deeply about it her insight seemed at least plausible. After all, depression, which I was experiencing at the time, is considered anger turned inwards, and, truthfully, I had a ton of anger I was turning inwards (more than enough to fill Met Life Stadium).

What is more, Crohn's is inflammation of the digestive tract. Might not my anger be contributing to that? Physiologically, this inflammation manifests as heat stuck inside me, a heat that resembles frustration and anger.

Focusing on emotional well-being

Often I felt like my gut was on fire. Might that, in part, be because certain emotions were not expressed? Because all this anger was turned inwards? Once I expressed it, the theory goes, that rage, that fire could be released, and as a result, I’d feel better.

Certainly, there are other contributing factors with Crohn's disease...genetics, diet, drugs, exercise, environmental toxins, water pollution. Furthermore, clearly, you could do everything right and still have a flare. My point is only that emotional well-being can potentially be beneficial in terms of our overall health.

Expressing anger and the impact on flares

I believe this was the case with me. Learning to express my anger, to not be so bottled up, was beneficial. My flares were less severe after I began expressing myself more fully. Certainly, at least, I felt less repressed.

I’m not saying expressing my anger cured me. That’s too simplistic. I still have health struggles. But, overall, I believe it’s had distinct benefits. One piece of evidence in favor of this theory, I suppose, is that I’ve been in remission for several years now.

Why I recommend therapy for those with Crohn's

Even if it doesn’t help your Crohn’s disease symptoms, the fact is, it simply is not healthy to keep too many of our feelings in. This is why I recommend therapy for those with Crohn’s disease, something I've been involved in on and off for twenty years. It gives you an outlet. A safe space to more fully be yourself.

Writing is another outlet, even if it is just scribbling in a diary. It may seem like a waste of time. But give it a chance. Writing can be a process of getting to know yourself.

Yet another outlet is chatting with friends who are sympathetic. In sum, it doesn’t matter what outlet you select, just so long as you communicate the feelings buried deep within.

Letting our frustrations out

Anger. It can be useful. It can help you overcome depression and maybe even feel better in terms of your Crohn's disease. So maybe what many sufferers of IBD need is to blow up a little bit, now and then, to let our frustrations out, to do what we can to make sure the rage within doesn’t destroy us.

Thanks for reading and as always I look forward to your comments.

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