Do you ever notice your digestion gets a little off when you’re stressed or anxious?
Your nervous and digestive systems are separate parts of your body…
However, their relationship shows in the way anxiety and emotional stress can cause such problems as indigestion, constipation, diarrhea and nausea.
Here are a few common struggles that happen when gut health is combined is stress, anxiety, nervousness, or burn-out.
The Sensitivity of Your Digestive Tract
When we are overly stressed, a brain “overload” can occur.
This just means that your full attention is being taken over by what is in front of you, and the brain may deprive other elements of the body, including the digestive tract, with the regulation needed to function properly.
Not only can the brain “ignore” some of its duties concerning the gut, a large amount of emotional stress can also result in the excessive production of stomach acids, causing considerable discomfort. Double whammy…
Stress and Adrenaline Production
In times of stress, the body produces excessive amounts of the hormone adrenaline. This hormone imbalance will affect the processing of nutrients, which will in turn affects the functioning of your digestive system.
Adrenaline relaxes the muscle of the stomach and intestine and decreases the flow of blood to these organs, slowing (or stopping) digestion.
When you’re in the privative brain mode of “fight, flight, or freeze”, the body naturally wants to stop digestive processes, so you can “run away from the tiger”. In our current lives, we are not running away from tigers, but the brain may still act on its privative level when overly stressed, which affects our digestion, causing bloating, constipation, and discomfort.
Gut Heath and the Immune System
You may not realize that 70 percent of the immune system is housed in the gut. Making sure our gut health and digestive system are in excellent shape can be key to avoiding sickness and staying healthy.
Although the immune system is important in protecting your body from disease and other threats, it can be negatively influenced by emotional stress. That is why people tend to get sick after a stressful event in their lives.
Anxiety and Sleep Problems
Waking up at 3am? When you feel stressed, your body may activate your sympathetic nervous symptom, and you may jolt awake in the middle of the night. Stress that your “go to bed with” can cause this. It may also be negativly affecting your gut health.
Lack of sleep can increase stress, which affects the gut.
A stressed gut may lead to bloating, inflammation, stomach pains, food sensitivities, and changes to the gut microbiome.
This can be a brutal cycle to find yourself in…
Try to building up your healthy gut bacteria, as it may positively influence normal sleep patterns by helping create serotonin and dopamine – important chemical messengers in the brain.
Dealing With Digestive Problems
An ongoing digestive problem may be an indication of excess stress and/or an unbalanced gut microbiome. You may want to check in with your health care provider.
To help relieve stress, give yourself moments during the day where you can de-stress, by breathing deeply, relaxing the facial muscles, and getting fresh air.
You can boost your gut health by adding prebiotics and probiotics to your diet, either through food or a supplement and consuming fermented foods, such as yogurt, kombucha, sauerkraut, or kefir.
To learn more about how to improve your gut health, check out my other article Show Your Gut Some Love.
Remember that small changes can lead to amazing, beautiful results in your gut health, mindset, and happiness.