The Impact of Stress on Your Digestive System

Have you ever had a stomach ache when preparing to give a public speech…

 

Or felt suddenly nauseous before a big sports game…

 

Or have your bowel movements gotten out of whack when going through a stressful period at work?

 

There’s a reason we often use the phrase “gut-wrenching” when making stressful decisions or going through a nerve-wracking experience.

 

In fact, the famous German writer and philosopher Johann Wolfgang von Goethe believed that the gut was the seat of all human emotions.

 

If you haven’t had the chance to learn about the exact connection between stress and digestive issues–now’s the time!

 

How Stress Impacts Your Body

 

The enteric nervous system is what controls our digestion and communicates with and is affected by the central nervous system.

 

When your “fight or flight” response gets switched on due to stress, your central nervous system shuts down blood flow, which affects the contractions of your digestive muscles and decreases necessary secretions for digestion.

 

When this happens, it can create issues such as…

 

  • Spasms in your esophagus.

 

  • Increased acid production in your stomach, leading to indigestion.

 

  • Nausea.

 

  • A reaction in your colon, giving you diarrhea or constipation.

 

  • Fanning of the flames for existing digestive disorders and diseases, such as stomach ulcers, celiac disease, or inflammatory bowel disease.

 

How to Manage Stress for Better Digestion

 

Luckily, there are several lifestyle changes you can make to in order to manage and reduce stress and ease digestion.

 

Here are three of them…

 

Moderate Exercise

 

Whether taking a daily walk or swimming laps in your local public pool, moving your body can relieve tension and stimulate the release of endorphins, which goes a long way in cutting down on stress and improving your mood.

 

Additionally, various forms of relaxation therapy (such as meditation and yoga) can help rewire your brain to respond to stressful events in a way that won’t elevate your fight or flight response.

 

Govind Das, owner of Bhakti Yoga Shala in Santa Monica, CA, was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in his early 20s.

 

He says he has been completely medication-free through a combination of yoga and ayurvedic medicine.

 

Digestive discomfort can be relieved if you combine deep breathing with stretches that target abdominal organs and twists that massage and wring out intestines blocked up with toxins.

 

Deep breathing exercises alone can also work wonders for digestion. For example, try the following exercise…

 

  1. While sitting comfortably with your back straight, place one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach.
  2. Breathe in deeply through your nose. The hand on your stomach should rise while the hand on your chest should move very little.
  3. Exhale through your mouth, pushing out as much air as you can while contracting your abdominal muscles. The hand on your stomach should move in as you exhale, while your other hand should remain relatively still.
  4. Continue to breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Try to inhale enough so that your lower abdomen rises and falls, and count slowly as you exhale.

 

Talk Therapy

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Talk therapy is nothing to be ashamed of.

 

If you know that it’s a proven method to minimize stress and learn how to ease and heal painful and uncomfortable physical issues in the body–why not try it?

 

For example, in a recent study of people with irritable bowel syndrome, 70 percent saw improvement in their symptoms after 12 weeks of cognitive behavioral therapy.

 

By working with a trained therapist, you will learn healthy mechanisms to deal with your stress.

 

Healthy Eating Habits

 

In our fast-paced, modern society we are often too busy to sit down and take the necessary time to eat our meals in a healthy way.

 

Eating too quickly, too infrequently, or too much puts added stress on your body.

 

Therefore, next time you eat dinner, make it a goal to actually sit at a table and to mindfully and slowly consume your meal.

 

If a light bulb is lighting up in your mind and you’re drawing connections between stress as a cause (or a contributing factor) for recent digestive unease, aim to make these lifestyle changes and see if anything shifts.

 

It may very well be worth it for you and your system!

 

Easing digestion is just one of the many benefits of yoga–learn about 10 benefits that the practice provides in this post

 

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