But the tests and appointments show nothing. Even your doctor isn’t taking you seriously any longer.
If this sounds remotely familiar, it’s time to start think out of the box.
It’s time to look at how stress and digestion are linked.
Because even if there’s not a physical problem that shows up on a scan, there’s still a real problem – and you deserve to be treated with concern and respect.
How Stress Can Impact Digestion
Stress and digestion are linked in several different ways – and some of them are somewhat complicated, so bear with me, because they are still worth understanding.
You may have heard of serotonin, the chemical the body releases to help control mood. What you may not have heard is that serotonin also plays a role in how your gut – and so your digestion – functions.
Stress lowers the amount of serotonin your body produces - that’s part of why you feel anxious when you’re stressed, because you’re not getting as much serotonin. But that also means that your gut isn’t getting the necessary serotonin signals it needs in order to function, either.
You’ve got stress creating low levels of serotonin, which causes stress, which causes low levels of serotonin. Now you’re in a cycle that’s hard to break – and that affects your digestive health as much as your mental health!
Let’s Talk About Fight or Flight
The fight or flight response is the way your body reacts to stress: it send adrenaline coursing through your system so you have the energy to fight your way out of the threatening situation, or the speed to flee from it. In order to get the energy the body needs to fight or flee, it shuts down other systems that aren’t in play during a crisis.
The digestive system is one of these “nonessential” systems. Then, once the emergency is over, the body relaxes, resets, and all the systems come back online again. In a true emergency, the fight or flight response can save your life.
However, we rarely face truly life-threatening emergencies in this day and age – only your body doesn’t realize that. The chronic stress of modern life keeps your body in a near constant state of fight or flight.
Which means your digestion can’t work properly, because your body is trying to reallocate its resources elsewhere. When this is happening temporarily, you’re fine. When it’s happening constantly, the stress is bound to start interfering with digestion.
And this isn’t the only way fight or flight creates stress and affects digestion. The energy you need during the fight or flight response comes from drawing on sugar stored in your body.
But in order to accomplish that, how and when your body digests nutrients has to change…creating digestion problems…caused by stress.
Are you beginning to see how it’s stress and digestion, digestion and stress, all interconnected?
More Direct Links Between Stress and Digestion
Have you heard that stress can make you sick? That’s because chronic stress weakens the immune system. Part of the way it does that is by interfering with the bacteria in your gut that keeps your whole body healthy.
The balance between healthy gut bacteria and unhealthy gut bacteria is a precarious one, and stress can be the tipping point. Digestion and digestive health are directly related to the levels of healthy bacteria in your gut.
When stress throws that balance out of whack, you end up with digestion problems.
Finally, healthy digestion requires sleep. It’s that’s simple and that important. Yet stress often makes it hard to get to sleep – and stay asleep – so that your body and digestive system get the healing rest you need.
How to Address the Stress-Digestion Link
If you suspect stress is the cause of your digestion issues, there are steps you can take:
- Find ways to relax. From meditation to a hot bath, whatever helps you relax will also help with stress and digestion.
- Consider finding someone to talk to. There’s no shame in needing to unload sometimes, and a therapist is often a good choice. They will know ways to help you reduce stress both short-term and long-term.
- Get some sleep. As you get better at relaxing, it should get easier to sleep. Also, set yourself up for sleep success – maintain a peaceful bedroom, go to bed at the same time every night, get up at the same time every morning, and don’t spend time in bed when you’re awake.
- Get moving. Another great stress reducer (and sleep aid!) is exercise. You don’t have to run marathons, but move enough to get your heart rate up most days a week. Plus, exercise is helpful with digestion. Moving keeps you moving. In other words, this one step helps with stress and digestion at the same time!
- Eat the right foods. Some foods are harder to digest, some are easier. While you’re dealing with a digestion system under attack from stress, choose foods that are easier.
- Look into supplements that help digestion. It’s a Catch-22: fiber helps digestion but fiber is often hard to digest. That’s where fiber supplements, like BenVia Gold, can come in handy. They give you the fiber you need without the hard to digest bulk.
Stress can create digestion problems. Digestion problems can create stress. Just because your issues are caused by stress doesn’t mean they’re not real.
So treat them like the real problems they are. Follow these steps and break the stress and digestion cycle.