Contributed by: Kimberly Black, 200 YT
Rest to Digest: How Stress Wrecks Your Digestive System
We’ve all experienced those familiar “gut” feelings before, like butterflies in the pit of your stomach when you are nervous or excited. This is your bodies natural reaction to stress and it triggers the bodies physiological fight-or-flight response when facing stress. The fight-or-flight response increases blood flow and contracts our muscles in case we need to flee a stressful situation or stay and fight.
During the fight or flight response blood flow to the stomach is cut off and it is redirected to the brain and the limbs so we can move ourselves out of a potentially dangerous situation. The problem is that due to our hyperactive and high stress lifestyle, our body is always tense and in a state of distress. Constant stress over time impedes digestion and due to lack of blood flow, our digestive system doesn’t always receive the healing properties of the blood.
How stress affects our digestive system:
-Stress leads to poor digestion because it affects our stomach peristalsis, which is the constriction and relaxation of your intestinal muscles, causing food to move poorly through the gastrointestinal tract. When the fight-or-flight response is triggered it can shut down our digestion, this can cause issues like constipation, which can also lead to bloating or abdominal pain.
-Stress can cause heart burn because of a natural response that makes the muscles of the esophagus spasm. This response can allow stomach acid to travel back up the esophagus causing heart burn and indigestion.
-The lack of blood flow to our stomachs during a stress response can slow down our digestive metabolism.
Ways to combat digestive distress:
-Relax before and after eating, this can help the body get ready for digestion. Before sitting to eat take a few relaxing breaths and calm everything down. This will help end any stress response and regulate the nervous system. It also allows for proper blood flow to the stomach which keeps the digestive processes going.
-Eat in a relaxing, distraction free environment. Make sure to give yourself plenty of time to eat free from any stimulus that may trigger a stress response. Take your time to eat and focus on your food, making sure to chew food thoroughly .
-Exercise is a great way to reduce stress and aid in proper digestion. It reduces tension from the body, and releases endorphins which improves mood.
If your stomach is signaling any digestive problems it could be related to stress, so take the time to listen to your gut and try some of these stomach settling techniques.