The connection between stress and digestion is well established and has been studied extensively. When we are stressed, be it physical or emotional, our body goes into “fight or flight” mode, a physiological response that prepares us to either confront or flee from a perceived threat. In this state, our body redirects blood flow away from non-essential systems, such as the digestive system, to the muscles, heart, and lungs in order to increase our chances of survival.
As a result of this physiological response, stress can cause a variety of digestive problems, including stomach cramps, nausea, constipation, and diarrhea. In some cases, stress can even lead to more serious digestive disorders, such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
The stress response is the same as it has been, but 21st century stress is dramatically different. Your stress response is designed to prepare you to physically deal with the stress and physical exertion helps dissipate stress hormones, quickly move your body back into balance. However, modern stressors rarely require a physical response, and they tend to last longer and be more pervasive. To make the matters worse, it is easy to disregard healthy habits when stressed. With improper digestion and nutrients absorption of food, it will lead you to lower your nutritional status hence, affecting your metabolic function as well and can lead to other health issues.
The link between stress and digestion is bidirectional, meaning that not only can stress cause digestive problems, but digestive problems can also cause stress. For example, when we are experiencing digestive discomfort, we may become anxious or worried about our symptoms, which can in turn increase our stress levels. This can create a vicious cycle, in which stress and digestive problems feed off of each other and become worse over time.
To break this cycle and improve our overall health, it is important to manage both our stress and our digestive health. This can be achieved through a combination of lifestyle changes and nutritional supplements support.
Lifestyle changes that may help reduce stress and improve digestion include exercising regularly, eating a healthy and balanced diet, getting enough sleep, and practicing relaxation techniques such as meditation and deep breathing. In addition, it may be helpful to avoid certain triggers that can exacerbate stress and digestive problems, such as caffeine, alcohol, and spicy foods.
If lifestyle changes alone are not sufficient to manage stress and improve digestion, you can supplement with nutritional supplements that can modulate stress and also improve digestion and gut function and protection.
In conclusion, stress and digestion are closely connected, and managing both can improve our overall health and well-being. By making lifestyle changes and/or combination with nutritional supplements, we can break the cycle of stress and digestive problems and live happier and healthier lives.
If you need further information and help, we are always here to help!
Dennis Wong, B.Sc.Pharm., FAARFM, CCN, ABAAHP, IFMCP