I am definitely seeing more and more people that come through my door asking me about stress and how connected between the mind and the gut, but actually what does this mean for you?
I am sure that you have experienced the mind-gut connection countless times, such as when you have felt as though your stomach has been ‘in knots’ or you’ve had ‘butterflies’ before a test or stressful situation or maybe even coming in for your treatment! Sometimes we can feel nauseous, acid reflux (heartburn) or diarrhoea when stressed too.
So there is a definite link between the gut and stress as our gastrointestinal system is very sensitive to our wide array of emotions. It is really usual for people to experience digestive and intestinal upset especially when they may be upset, anxious, stressed or angry
That impact of stress on the stomach actually goes far beyond issues such as indigestion, loss of appetite or urgent runs to the loo.
Our digestive system is very sensitive to our emotions after all our soul’s plexus which is a chakra you hear me talk about a lot absorbs emotion and is where the main part of your intestines are…
We are now seeing medical experts recognise that stress can be a major issue in such a wide range of digestive problems, including irritable bowel syndrome, indigestion, and heartburn. We do need to understand how stress affects our bodies, so we can learn the best ways we can prevent and also treat the conditions that we may suffer from at any time in our lives.
So let me ask you a question – how do you and your body cope with stress?
When we are in a stressful situation our body switches into ‘fight or flight’ mode, and this activates our Sympathetic Nervous System diverts blood supply and resources into helping us to produce adrenaline and cortisol so that we can either fight or (take) flight.
Years ago when we were cavemen we would run away from the dinosaurs 🦕 however what it does to our bodies is that all our resources and blood supply are diverted to our brain, heart and muscles, and away from our digestive system. This is because digestion is not seen as a priority and then it allows us to have enough adrenaline and cortisol so we can do a runner!
We are obviously not living in a world of cavemen and dinosaurs….. however in the world 🌎 we now living in our bodies are not able to convert whether the stress is coming from a predator or from relationships, work, hormones, health issues, family problems, to name a few!
So there’s a constant level of stress, resulting in never truly switching off (a bit like having car constantly running). This will result somewhere your battery gets flat and you will end up living in this ‘fight or flight’ and your digestion system not receiving the attention it needs.
‘Rest and digest’, part of us is when we are relaxed and calm. The Parasympathetic Nervous System regulates our heart rate and blood pressure, which then keeps us calmer and minimise anxiety and reduces those feelings of stress and knots in our tummy. Then we can fully digest our food. So this is why is fundamentally important that we manage and understand our stress and where it comes from and managing it is essential for having a healthy gut and digestion.
So now we get the gist of the mechanics of stress and the gut, this is how stress can have an impact on our gut health!
It can cause lots of detrimental events in your gut, but the ones I see most of all are the following:
- Low stomach acid production – this shows up as in IBS symptoms, such as bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhoea, reflux etc. we need our stomach acid so that we can absorb our nutrients – just like running a car and it not using the fuel we put in ….it would soon break down and we won’t get anywhere! Our foods are needed to produce hormones and neurotransmitters, and this can lead to hormonal imbalances, anxiety, depression etc. Stomach acid is also important because it is our immune system’s first line of defence, and if this is hindered, pathogens such as bacteria/ parasites will be able to survive the pH of the stomach and enter the small and large intestine, where they can wreak havoc and produce unpleasant symptoms.
- Decreased gut motility, what I mean by this is your colon is a muscle and it won’t be moving well and in a lot of situations, constipation can occur, which means you can’t get rid of toxins/waste which your body is designed to do. Symptoms such as bloating, gas tummy can occur along with bowel conditions flaring up such IBS, upper gastrointestinal issues, diverticular disease and a lot more!
- Increased gut motility – sometimes resulting in inconvenient dashes to the loo.
- Inflammation – cortisol which is the main stress hormone is released especially if we are continually stressed. Inflammation can be one of the drivers of leaky gut. Having had leaky gut once it is present, our immune system can start reacting in obscure ways to random foods, and it is thought that this is one of the triggers for the onset of an autoimmune disease. I can definitely speak about this personally as I an under-active thyroid so and Leaky gut can also cause nutrient deficiencies due to the intestinal damage it causes and these nutrients are often the ones that can affect the bowel. I take a magnesium supplement as it is needed for the peristalsis action (the colon to move) and if we don’t have enough the bowel can become constipated as it’s just not moving well.
So as you all know me I am all about living your best life and finding ways to do that and help yourselves….after all as I mentioned in last month’s blog you can not give from an empty cup (that also includes me)
I have put together a few self-care ideas which I do hope you will find beneficial:
- Doing something that brings you joy… A hobby, going to the theatre, walking in nature, watching a football match…remember life isn’t a rehearsal so do what you enjoy
- I find this really therapeutic and good for my mind and diet! I Batch cooking on a Sunday so I am not stressed about cooking every day….. I also do an online food shop so it means I don’t get distracted by buying food I won’t eat because it’s on offer.
- Scheduling in a bath maybe with Epsom salts or a nice bubble bath at least once a week….peace and quiet, scented candles and maybe even a cheeky glass of wine! Bliss 👌
- Incorporating yoga sessions into your week. I recently found a great app and loads of Utube videos even if it’s 15/20 minutes it doesn’t matter. You get moving and stretching and mentally makes you feel so much better.
- Learning to say ‘no’ more often – boundaries and protecting yourself …. I will be going into more detail about that in next month’s blog!
- Digital detox….be mindful of exactly how much time you spend on social media and your phones….especially if you not actually doing anything productive. Good sleep practices are crucial for our health. Not going on your devices at least one hour before bed, and having a wind-down routine in place. Poor sleep can raise our cortisol levels significantly the following day, which can result in the sympathetic nervous system being activated plus we look and feel awful!
- Avoid eating while stressed and try to practise mindful eating …this also includes chewing your food!
- Swap your caffeinated beverages for herbal alternatives. Caffeine can increase our cortisol levels, which can negatively impact our gut health. Valerian, chamomile and Lemon balm are great ingredients to look out for in herbal teas for their relaxing properties.
- I absolutely love a list …obsessed by them and a lovely book to write my lists in however because life is just so busy I need to be organised and I create a daily ‘To Do’ list to prevent myself from feeling overwhelmed….!
Practising breathing exercises when you feel stressed – Breathwork is amazing and I attach details of an event myself and my dearest friend are running … Breathwork, guided meditation and a sound bath …absolute bliss! Book HERE.
I hope you find these tips and hints useful.
I look forward to seeing you all soon and hopefully some of you at my sound healing events!