Most of us have direct experience of how chronic, or extreme emotional stress can affect the digestive tract. Ancient practitioners of Chinese Medicine also theorized that the gut (especially the Liver) was the seat of feelings. Modern science explains this phenomena, detecting that around 90 percent of our hormones and hormone are in fact produced in the gut.
Something not a lot people understand, at least logically, is that the digestive tract is actually governed by the Central Nervous System, namely a sub-branch of the nervous system known as the”parasympathetic nervous system”. Essentially, the parasympathetic system is our “rest and digest” state. Only if we are relaxed and free of anxiety does the parasympathetic system and for that reason digestion, activate. When we enter a state of anxiety, the connection to the parasympathetic system; the sympathetic system, activates.
This anxiety state or the “flight or fight” reaction shuts down digestion by decreasing blood flow to the digestive organs, inhibits digestive fluid secretion, and instead sends the blood and biological energy to muscular-skeletal system to get ready for battle. When the sympathetic system is stimulated by prolonged stress, it may cause gastrointestinal disorders, inflammation and weaken the immune system.
One example of how stress can cause frequent digestive difficulties is by causing the esophagus to spasm and changing stomach acid secretion. This results in 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 stressed, which contributes diarrhea or constipation.
When any of these conditions become persistent, the inflammation and overall poor performance of the digestive tract can finally lead to stomach ulcers, IBS, and inflammatory bowel disease. Reducing total stress isn’t a straightforward job, it takes a holistic, multi-factorial strategy. However, 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 some time, there are a few basic things you can do to mitigate their consequences.
One simple method to de-stress is to take part in fun, moderate exercise. Physical exercise relieves tension, gets us out of our minds, improves our mood by releasing endorphins but in addition helps with the elimination of stress hormones. Some of the healthiest forms of exercise include walking, hiking, biking, swimming, dance, yoga, thai qi, and weight lifting.
What to do?
- Relaxation – People with digestive issues tend to be overly stressed and don’t relax enough. Getting authentic, profound relaxation is harder in the world today, but can be accomplished through meditation, yoga, progressive muscle relaxation, visualization, cognitive therapy, biofeedback, superior music, spending time in nature, swimming, love-making, and working on a fun project or hobby.
- Communication therapy – A significant source of psychological stress dwells in the area of communication. In actuality, the majority of stress and difficulties in life have their origins in communicating trouble. If you have ever been in a situation where you did not know what to say, or somebody was not speaking to you, you know the stress related to poor communication. Taking classes or studying books communications can be helpful for enhancing our quality of life, relationships and reducing a excellent source of stress. However, simply having a good friend or loved one you can talk to openly about your stress may be a significant stress reliever. Personally, I have found cognitive therapy to be a significant aid in alleviating chronic stress in my life. There are even studies that have demos rated a 70 percent increase in anxiety symptoms after 12 months of cognitive therapy.
- Nutrition – A poor diet can ruin a great 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’s helpful to eat more salt and protein when stressed. In actuality, soldiers in the military are needed to consume a higher protein diet to mitigate the catabolic effects of battle. So, it’s ideal to have a two-sided approached nutritionally, in which you avoid junk foods that increase your stress, and consume nutrient-dense, wholesome foods which help replenish a stressed body.
- Choose your battles – An interesting thing about life is that issues appear to be valuable. If we had no troubles in any way, we would be existentially bored. So, the objective isn’t to eliminate all stress and problems form our own lives. Instead, we will need to select our problems wisely. For instance, beginning a new fulfilling relationship will have its own challenges, but in the long run, the issues are usually well worth it. Same is true 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 quantity of anxiety that only makes like interesting and helps us grow.
Mental and emotional stress can cause a good deal of problems for an otherwise healthy digestive tract. Stress all together is inevitable, it looks like a natural part of the game of life. What’s important is how we respond to our anxiety and problems, which we finally prevent it from becoming chronic. If you know that you are under too much stress and/or having symptoms of digestive stress, then these tips will help. If anxiety management is the issue, there are cognitive therapists, yoga and medicine teachers who can provide confirmed help.