Objective The role of the brain–gut axis is of increasing interest in IBD, as the link between common mental disorders and GI inflammation may be bidirectional. We performed a systematic review examining these issues.
Design We searched EMBASE Classic and EMBASE, Medline, and APA PsychInfo (to 11 July 2021) for longitudinal follow-up studies examining effect of symptoms of anxiety or depression on subsequent adverse outcomes in IBD, or effect of active IBD on subsequent development of symptoms of anxiety or depression. We pooled relative risks (RRs) and HRs with 95% CIs for adverse outcomes (flare, escalation of therapy, hospitalisation, emergency department attendance, surgery or a composite of any of these) according to presence of symptoms of anxiety or depression at baseline, or RRs and HRs with 95% CIs for new onset of symptoms of anxiety or depression according to presence of active IBD at baseline.
Results We included 12 separate studies, recruiting 9192 patients. All 12 studies examined brain-to-gut effects. Anxiety at baseline was associated with significantly higher risks of escalation of therapy (RR=1.68; 95% CI 1.18 to 2.40), hospitalisation (RR=1.72; 95% CI 1.01 to 2.95), emergency department attendance (RR=1.30; 95% CI 1.21 to 1.39), or a composite of any adverse outcome. Depression at baseline was associated with higher risks of flare (RR=1.60; 95% CI 1.21 to 2.12), escalation of therapy (RR=1.41; 95% CI 1.08 to 1.84), hospitalisation (RR=1.35; 95% CI 1.17 to 1.57), emergency department attendance (RR=1.38; 95% CI 1.22 to 1.56), surgery (RR=1.63; 95% CI 1.19 to 2.22) or a composite of any of these. Three studies examined gut-to-brain effects. Active disease at baseline was associated with future development of anxiety or depression (RR=2.24; 95% CI 1.25 to 4.01 and RR=1.49; 95% CI 1.11 to 1.98, respectively).
Conclusion Bidirectional effects of the brain–gut axis are present in IBD and may influence both the natural history of the disease and psychological health.
- inflammatory bowel disease
- crohn's disease
- ulcerative colitis
- brain/gut interaction
Data availability statement
Data are available upon reasonable request. Data are available upon reasonable request from the corresponding author.
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DJG and ACF are joint last authors.
Twitter @bribarberio, @alex_ford12399
Contributors Study concept and design: ACF, DJG and KMF conceived and drafted the study. KMF and ACF analysed and interpreted the data. KMF, DJG and ACF drafted the manuscript. All authors have approved the final draft of the manuscript. ACF is guarantor. He accepts full responsibility for the work and the conduct of the study, had access to the data and the decision to publish. The corresponding author attests that all listed authors meet authorship criteria and that no others meeting the criteria have been omitted.
Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.
Competing interests None declared.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
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