Constipation Can Have Emotional Basis
July 21, 2001
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Psychological well-being is known to
be intertwined with gastrointestinal health, and new research
suggests that women with chronic constipation are more
likely to be anxious or depressed than women
who don't have bowel problems.
In a study of 34 women with chronic constipation, UK investigators
linked emotional distress with changes in the nerve pathway
that helps control gut function.
They say the findings suggest a specific
path through which psychological factors directly influence
the digestive system.
Women with chronic constipation were more likely than healthy
women to report anxiety, depression and feeling less "feminine."
They also found it harder to form close relationships.
Moreover, the investigators found that the poorer a patient's
psychological well-being was, the lower her rectal blood
flow. As for healthy women, there was no link between blood
flow and psychological factors -- which, the researchers
point out, was partly due to the fact that there was little
variance in these measures among healthy women.
The investigators demonstrated a direct demonstrable link
between certain aspects of central brain activity -- anxiety,
depression, feeling 'unfeminine' -- and gut dysfunction.
These findings also echo existing evidence that patients
with chronic constipation have higher rates of depression
and anxiety, according to the researchers.
Other research showed that psychological
therapy improves both emotional health and bowel
function in patients with chronic constipation. Specifically,
a behavioral therapy called biofeedback was shown to improve
activity in nerve pathways to the gut.