The old-fashioned diagnostic generality “nervous stomach” may be more accurate than once thought. When we become stressed, our digestive system often ceases to work properly.
Stress may even lead to the worsening of digestive problems, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
HuffPost Live recently interviewed gastroenterologist Roshini Raj on the connection between stress and digestive imbalance. Dr. Raj reaffirmed that stress can indeed negatively affect the digestive system, as the two systems are closely related.
During the interview, Dr. Raj said, “There is a very strong connection between our brains and our guts. The same neurotransmitters that we release when we’re anxious or stressed can cause our intestines to either start churning and move too quickly, which could cause diarrhea, or even the opposite: it could move too slowly and cause constipation.”
She added, “Pretty much any (gastrointestinal) condition across the board can be made worse by stress.” Dr. Raj stated that while stress has not been proven to cause ulcers, Crohn’s disease, IBS or other digestive illnesses, it may make these and other illnesses much more problematic.
A study performed at the University of Zurich, Switzerland in 2010 found that stress—both environmental and psychological—and gastrointestinal disease may worsen each other, forming a vicious cycle. The study suggests that for this reason, psychological therapy may be very useful “to treat functional gastrointestinal disorders.”
The study authors explain, “When a person becomes stressed enough to trigger the fight-or-flight response, for example, digestion slows or even stops so that the body can divert all its internal energy to facing a perceived threat. In response to less severe stress, such as public speaking, the digestive process may slow or be temporarily disrupted, causing abdominal pain and other symptoms of functional gastrointestinal disorders.”
It is worth it to the health of your gut—as well as your overall physical and mental health—to keep stress to a minimum. Regular, moderate exercise, especially outside if the weather permits, is a great way to soothe your nerves. Meditation, especially when practiced on a consistent basis, has been found to be a powerful stress-relieving practice.
You may also try aromatherapy with lavender, chamomile and ylang ylang essential oils. These can be diluted and applied to pressure points, added to a hot bath, or misted around a whole room via a diffuser. Talking to a trusted friend or family member, or writing in a journal to vent your emotions, may also help a lot.
Whatever method you use to find your inner sense of calm, your body and mind will thank you.
-The Alternative Daily