We’re always told to be calm and to de-stress but what does this really mean and how does stress affect our digestion?

Most of us have felt nervous before public speaking or before an exam.  Remember how your tummy felt at the time?  Pain, nausea, butterflies, diarrhoea?  Sound familiar?  The brain is directly connected to the gut so this is why we feel this way.

When you are stressed, blood flow of the digestion system can shut down and the muscles of your digestive muscles are affected.  Gastric juices, which you need to break down your food, are also decreased.  Your gut can also be inflamed as a result of stress.

Stress can also increase the acid in your stomach causing indigestion and the stomach can shut down causing nausea.  Your bowel movements are also affected.  Corticotropin releasing factor (CRF) is released which either increases or decreases bowel motility.  In other words, you can either have diarrhoea or constipation..  Usually, this is temporary but if you experience long-term stress on a daily basis, this can lead to serious problems in the future. Chronic stress activates your enteric nervous system which eventually leads to gut diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease and ulcers.  Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common condition in our clinic.  Stress contributes towards IBS where the microbiome is altered via the central nervous system.   When the microbiome is altered, you may have ‘leaky gut’ or ‘dysbiosis’ resulting in nutrient absorption being depleted.  Long-term stress can also deplete Vitamin C, B Vitamins, zinc, calcium and magnesium.

What can you do to de-stress?

Meditation and deep breathing are proven means of relaxing and de-stressing.  However, meditation doesn’t suit everyone.  Yoga is an excellent alternative which has been proven to relieve stress.

You diet is also a big factor in the health of your gut and state of mind.  Eating a healthy whole food diet is essential for good gut health and mental health.

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