Have you ever gone through a particularly stressful or emotional time and noticed a discomfort in your gut? Well, read on and you will find out why.
Your body is an amazing creation and scientists are daily discovering more and more about how complex and how connected your body is. A recent discovery in the field of digestion is what scientists call the ‘mind-gut connection’. Your brain is made up of brain cells called neurons. These cells are specialized in processing, storing and communicating information. They enable us to think and feel. These same cells have been found in high concentration in the gut. This means that there is a real connection between your nervous system and your digestive system. When you experience a negative emotion or stress your whole body will be affected – but the effect can be more dramatically felt in your gut.
One of the ways that stress or strong negative emotions affect digestion is through the increased production of stress hormones. One of the major stress hormones is adrenaline. This is a powerful hormone that prepares your body to take action and ward off any potential danger. It also causes your digestion to slow down and decreases the flow of blood to your gut. This can lead to constipation. Alternatively the reaction can be so strong it can cause cramping or diarrhoea.
Other conditions aggravated by stress include ulcers, heartburn and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). People suffering from these conditions may find that their symptoms are worse during difficult times. In addition to this, stress has been shown to have a negative effect on gut flora and suppresses the immune system.
If you are prone to stress it is time to take action! There are many fantastic books on the market that tackle this subject. Take time out to read a few books. Not only will you improve your digestion but a decrease in stress has been shown to extend life expectancy, slow down the aging process, improve sleep quality, and help you lose weight, sharpen your memory and generally make you happier. Now that is worth the effort!
If you are going through a temporarily stressful period you can assist your digestion by eating small, easy to digest meals. It is easy to decrease your meal size by eating 5-6 times per day instead of the usually 2-3. You can replace some meals with vegetable juice or easy to digest foods such as fruits and vegetables. Speak to your healthcare practitioner about nutrients to support your adrenal glands during stressful periods such as specific nutrients or adaptogenic herbs.