Stress Is Causing Your Digestive Problems

Abdomen, Intestine, Large, Small
The majority of us have direct experience of how chronic, or extreme emotional stress can affect the digestive system. Historical practitioners of Chinese Medicine also theorized that the gut (especially the Liver) was the seat of emotions. Modern science explains this phenomena, detecting that up to 90% of our hormones and hormone are actually produced in the gut.
What Happens to Digestion When We’re Stressed
Something not a lot of us understand, at least logically, is that the digestive system is actually governed by the Central Nervous System, specifically a sub-branch of the nervous system referred to as the”parasympathetic nervous system”. In essence, the parasympathetic system is our”rest and digest” state. Only if we are relaxed and free of stress does the parasympathetic system and therefore digestion, activate.
When we enter a state of anxiety, the counterpart to the parasympathetic system; the sympathetic system, activates.
When the sympathetic system is chronically stimulated by prolonged stress, it can cause gastrointestinal disorders, inflammation and weaken the immune system.
One example of how stress can cause common digestive difficulties is by causing the esophagus to spasm and altering stomach acid secretion. This leads to heartburn, acid reflux and can make you feel nauseous. Another example is that the effects stress has on the colon. Intense stress increases the secretion of stress hormones cortisol, prolactin and dopamine, which can cause the colon to become hyperactive or tense, which leads diarrhea or constipation.
How to Handle Stress for Better Digestion
Reducing total stress is not a straightforward job, it requires a holistic, multi-factorial approach. But, psychological stress is one of the primary, dominant stressors that negatively affect the digestive tract. While getting a handle on the source of psychological stress can take time, there are some simple things you can do to mitigate their consequences.
One simple method to de-stress is to engage in fun, moderate exercise. Some of the healthiest forms of exercise include walking, hiking, biking, swimming, dancing, yoga, thai qi, and weight lifting.
Other great ways to reduce stress include:
Relaxation – Individuals with digestive issues are often overly stressed and don’t relax enough. Getting authentic, profound relaxation is harder in today’s world, but can be achieved through meditation, yoga, progressive muscle relaxation, visualization, cognitive therapy, biofeedback, superior music, spending time in nature, camping, love-making, and working on an enjoyable project or hobby.
Communication therapy – A major source of psychological stress dwells in the area of communication. In fact, most stress and problems in life have their roots in communicating trouble. If you have ever been in a situation where you didn’t know what to say, or someone was not talking to you, you know the stress related to poor communication. Taking courses or studying books communications can be helpful for enhancing our quality of life, relationships and reducing a great source of stress. But simply having a good friend or loved one you can talk to openly about your stress can be a significant stress reliever. Personally, I have found cognitive therapy to be a major help in relieving chronic stress in my life. There are even studies that have demos rated a 70 percent improvement in stress symptoms after 12 weeks of cognitive therapy.
Nutrition – A bad diet can ruin a good digestive system. Poor nutrition can be a source of biological stress, but in addition, eating the correct foods can help curb the effects of anxiety. Generally speaking, it is helpful to eat more salt and protein when stressed. In actuality, soldiers in the army are required to eat a higher protein diet to mitigate the catabolic effects of combat. So, it is best to have a two-sided approached nutritionally, where you avoid junk foods that increase your stress, and consume nutrient-dense, wholesome foods which help replenish a stressed body.
If we had no problems at all, we’d be existentially bored. So, the goal isn’t to eliminate all stress and problems form our own lives. Instead, we will need to pick our problems wisely. For instance, beginning a new fulfilling relationship will have its challenges, but in the end, the problems are usually worth it. Same goes for beginning a new job or goal. A good guideline is that any condition in life would ideally be 80% enjoyment with 20% pain, the pain being the best amount of stress that just makes like interesting and helps us grow.

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