Stress can affect your digestive system in many different ways. Not many people know the direct relationship between mind and gut and how important it is to our health. Here are 5 ways that stress can affect your digestive system and how to counteract them.
Stress responses such as an increase in heart or breathing rate have a knock on effect on your digestive system. During these stress responses, your body will decrease digestion. After that is over, it will increase again! The stop-start reaction is not healthy for your gut and can lead to ulcers. Mindful breathing can help slow down these reactions and limit the resulting digestive problems. Click here for an example of mindful breathing.
Stress = coping mechanisms – pass the prosecco?!
Comfort eating; grabbing a cheap bottle of booze on the way home; ordering a cheeky bhuna when you’ve had a rough time at work – all these decisions lead to poor health. This then compromises your immune system and your gut health. Change your stress reaction. If you’ve got a busy week at work, try and meal plan the weekend before and prepare slow cooker meals. Batch cook healthy meals the week before so you have a quick ready meal available when you get home. A homemade curry is not half as bad for you if you pack it with vegetables. A glass of good red wine after your dinner is not as bad as a bottle as soon as you get in! Don’t forget to add in some healthy treats in the cupboard like dark chocolate with a higher cocoa percentage. Comfort eating takes on a whole new meaning.
Ever get a “gut reaction”?
Changes in our mental health, such as feeling scared or nervous can affect our gut health too. Ever been sick before something major in your life? That’s the stress reaction. That’s why we can sometimes “feel” our emotions in our gut. 95% of your serotonin (feel good hormones) are in your gut! Too many changes in the health of your gut can reduce this serotonin and negatively affect your mental health too, causing depression or anxiety. Relaxation therapies such as yoga, meditation or hypnotherapy can all help to reverse these reactions. Done regularly they can help relax you so that your gut relaxes too.
It’s not an allergy – it’s a leaky Gut!
Leaky gut is when the gut walls become permeable, allowing substances to travel into the body that before would have been sieved out by the gut barrier. This then leads to an allergic response in our bodies, such as runny nose, itchy eyes, congestion etc. Chronic mild stress will cause this leaky gut to occur and requires a break of a few days to allow it to heal. But in this busy world, when do we allow ourselves a few days to destress? Not every week, because even at the weekends we pack so much into our lives! So, they key here is to build in regular destress days to your week. Try not to fit so much in!
Probiotics, not Badbiotics…
Stress can unbalance your gut bacteria, which is vital to your digestive health. If you are under stress all the time, your ratio of good and bad bacteria in the gut will start to sway towards bad. This causes IBS and even Crohn’s disease when at its worst. Acne is an effect of stress via the digestive system. It also reduces the amount of different types of gut bacteria we have which can lead to us being overweight and having more allergies. Probiotics can reverse both these situations. They can help maintain the diversity and amount of good bacteria in the gut.
Stress in inevitable in our lives. But there are ways to manage the reactions that our bodies face and ways to prevent the effects that it has on our bodies and minds. Prevention is better than cure.
If you have read this and recognise any symptoms, please get in contact. There are a lot of things we at Complete Health Clinic can help with. How stress affects your digestive system is after all, up to you.