Eating too much or eating the wrong foods can definitely lead to poor digestion. Not having enough fiber or not drinking enough water, too, can be a cause of sluggish digestion, but have you ever thought of the impact of stress on the well-being of your tummy?
Bloating, gas, constipation, or diarrhea are all annoying symptoms of digestive issues. You feel uncomfortable, sluggish, you may even put on weight as a result… you just don’t really feel like yourself. And while food and diet play a large role in our digestive health, stress is also a very common trigger of those digestive woes.
Stress and its effect on digestion
Digestion is controlled by the enteric nervous system comprised of hundreds of millions of nerves. When we get stressed, our body goes into a fight-or-flight mode in order to protect ourselves from an impending threat. Your nervous system responds by shutting down blood supply to your digestive system, as it could be needed elsewhere to better protect you. This, in turn, limits secretions, affects muscle contractions in the stomach and intestines, and can even lead to inflammation, increasing the risk of infection or illness.
Dr. Kenneth Kochof of the Digestive Health Center at Wake Forrest University Baptist Medical Center explained, “Stress can cause your esophagus to go into spasms. It can increase the acid in your stomach, causing indigestion. Under stress, the mill in your stomach can shut down and make you feel nauseous. Stress can cause your colon to react in a way that gives you diarrhea or constipation. We are all familiar with the athlete or the student who has to rush to the bathroom before the big game or the big exam. Although stress may not cause stomach ulcers, celiac disease, or inflammatory bowel disease, it can make these and other diseases of digestion worse.”
As you can see then, stress can negatively impact your digestive system, so if you’ve tried changing your diet and amping up your exercise to improve your digestion but still having no luck, you may want to look closer at your stress levels.
Tips to reduce stress and improve digestion
A good way to improve digestion then is to reduce stress. Start with identifying your stressors. Can these be solved, avoided, or handled differently? Coming up with solutions to tackle your stressors is a good way to limit anxiety in your life.
Other techniques for reducing stress include relaxation therapy, meditation, exercise, yoga, tai chi, and even eating certain foods. Studies have shown eating junk food can actually lead to stress and digestive issues, so it’s best that you eat as healthy as possible.
Finding healthy ways to deal with your stress can go a long way in improving your digestion, too.