“How does stress affect the digestive system?”, you ask. Well, the truth is, your brain and your gut are connected in more ways than you think.
You see, the very moment that you think of food, your stomach reacts by producing digestive juices as if you were actually eating it. It’s kind of like your stomach’s salivating in its own way. Your stomach reacts too when you’re about to do something nerve-wracking, such as standing in front of a huge crowd to give a speech.
Regardless of what it is you’re doing, your brain and your gut are always connected, and this kind of direct relationship makes our gut very susceptible to any emotionally reaction, including stress.
What Happens To Our Gut When We’re Stressed?
When under a noticeable amount of stress, our brain starts reacting by sending signals for our bodies to release chemicals such as adrenaline and serotonin and cortisol.
In good amounts, all of these chemicals are necessary for us to function normally. Adrenaline, for example, allows us to accomplish great things when in intense situations. However, our bodies can react negatively to a sudden or constant influx of these chemicals, and one of the bodily systems affected is the digestive system.
For starters, stress can cause a decrease in the amount of blood and oxygen that gets to our stomach. This can cause cramping, which is the result of an imbalance between gut bacteria and inflammation. If these symptoms are allowed to progress, cramping can develop into various gastro intestinal disorders, such as, but not limited to, peptic ulcers or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), or irritable bowel disease (IBD).
How to Minimize Stress’ Effect on your Gut
There are many things that you can do to help minimize the effect that stress has on your gut health and avoid having to go through bouts of stomach pain.
A good start is to adopt stress-management techniques. The easiest thing that you can do is to exercise regularly. Sweating it out is a legitimate way of releasing stress. You can also make it a point to avoid stressors, getting enough sleep at night, and finding ways to relax throughout the day to minimize your stress levels. You can also try socializing and reaching out to your friends and family a bit more instead of secluding yourself from the outside world.
Drinking fewer alcohol beverages and consuming less sugar can also prevent the imbalance of good and bad bacteria in the stomach. At the same time, you can add food rich in probiotics to your daily diet to help promote a healthy digestive system.
There’s a reason why many doctors refer to the gut as the “second brain” of the human body. When your gut is telling you something, chances are, your brain is too. If you’re experiencing gut pain or other related complications, then it might be time to have it checked by a physician. It might be a sign of something bigger.
A gastroenterologist is a doctor who specializes in the treatment and diagnosis of disorders associated with your gut, liver, and pancreas. They will be able you with your ongoing gut problem and provide short-term, as well as long-term solutions.