Stress is all kinds of evil and receiving certifications in Acupressure for Digestive Disorders, and Swedish massage has only reinforced just how detrimental stress can be to our digestion.
In case you didn’t already know this (though I have a feeling you might) our gastrointestinal systems are responsible for a majority of our body’s immunity. We are quite literally in need of listening to our guts!
Trysh Sutton from Pure Path, a naturopathic wellness site that promotes healthy living and healing through the use of essential oils and sustainable living, is going to give us some insight into the connection between stress and digestion.
To find out more about Trysh and Pure Path, please check out her bio at the end of this post.
The Connection Between Stress and Digestion
Today’s busy lifestyles, heavy workloads and daily bombardments of troubling news can quickly and easily result in high-stress levels. While we all live with some degree of day to day stress, too much of it can wreak havoc on your gut, resulting in chronic digestive issues that can affect our overall health and wellness.
How Stress Works
We all have a survival mode, known as the “fight or flight” response. It is an evolutionary feature in our bodies where, when facing a potential threat (real or perceived), our bodies go through various changes to prepare us to confront or evade the threat. Some of these changes include an increase in blood pressure and faster heart rate (to push more blood to the muscles and vital organs), increased alertness and sharper senses.
Being chronically stressed perpetuates some of these processes over an extended period, which can lead to a long list of issues (digestion being one).
How Stress Affects Digestion
When the fight or flight response is activated, blood flow to the digestive muscles is limited because precedence is given to the limbs and brain which are more necessary for fighting, running and thinking quickly. This affects your gut peristalsis and slows down the transition of food, leading to constipation.
Stress may also lead to intestinal muscle spasms which can affect the movement of food in the intestines. Depending on the type of muscles being affected, food may move too slowly (constipation) or too quickly (diarrhea or inefficient absorption of nutrients).
Another muscle that may spasm is the sphincter between the esophagus and the stomach. When this happens, stomach acids may back up into the esophagus, causing the painful condition called heartburn.
Speaking of stomach acids, stress affects that too! Studies have found that psychological stress can lead to an increase or decrease in gastric acid secretion in different individuals.
Other ways stress may affect digestion are by upsetting the balance of good to bad gut bacteria and comprising the integrity of the intestinal barrier (in extreme cases).
It may seem easier said than done, but we can all find time to take simple steps to calm down and ease our stress levels.
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Even short walks 4 or 5 times a week can raise endorphin levels and reduce stress.
Create a calm place in your home, free of electronics and with low lighting, to sit and concentrate on pleasant thoughts for a few minutes every day.
Try Essential Oils
Aromatherapy has been shown, in countless studies and personal testimonies, to reduce stress effectively. Some essential oils you can buy for this purpose are lavender, roman chamomile, bergamot and ylang ylang.
Eat more omega 3 fatty acids
These nutrients help to reduce stress levels and make your body and mind more effective at handling stress triggers. The most reliable sources of omega 3’s are fatty fish such as mackerel and salmon.
Play with your pet
Spending a few minutes petting or playing with your four-legged friend gives you added purpose and brings you joy.
You don’t have to be a best-selling author to put pen to paper and jot down your thoughts and feelings. Journaling helps us get things off our mind and can help us identify solutions to everyday problems.
Listen to Music
Turn on some familiar, soothing tunes and spend a few minutes singing along. Music can take your attention away from everyday pressures, giving you valuable time to decompress.
One of the main causes of stress is having too many obligations and not enough time. Sometimes we take on too much and don’t realize until it’s too late.
Saying no, not just to others, but yourself as well will allow you to have more time to get through your tasks, as well as the wiggle room to deal with any possible inconveniences. Proper time management is a crucial skill to hone if you want to improve your stress levels.
All of these approaches are healthy and sustainable approaches to relieving stress. Stay away from unhealthy coping mechanisms such as alcohol.
Why Good Digestion Matters
Aside from reducing the risk of chronic health problems, an excellent digestive system provides better immunity, a healthy metabolism, and heightened mental clarity. We also experience increased energy and better mood. Because of this, a healthy gut helps us better cope with daily stressors.
Don’t let too much stress negatively impact your digestive system. It’s a vital component to your overall health and wellness and, by caring for it properly, you can significantly decrease your risk of long-term and serious health concerns.
Trysh Sutton is a wife, mother, strategic leader and teacher. She runs a website called Pure Path, which is a naturopathic wellness site that promotes healthy living and healing through the use of essential oils and sustainable living.
You can follow her on social media to learn more about the benefits of essential oils, and healthy living practices.
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How do you manage the stress in your life?