The digestive system, as a unit, otherwise known as the gut, influences many different aspects of the body. How it functions is a result of how we treat it and what we put in our bodies. It’s connected to our hormones, as well as aspects of our mental health. These directly coincide with stress levels that can have a significant impact on the function of the gut.
Digestive Conditions Caused by Stress
Stress has a unique relationship with gut bacteria, and they can affect each other. Gut bacteria can mediate response to stress, but when stress becomes too much, it can alter the gut’s ability to do so.
This can trigger the onset of the following digestive issues.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a disorder of the large intestine. Its symptoms include pain in the abdomen, bloating, gas, diarrhea, and constipation. It is considered a chronic condition.
Complex interactions between the immune, hormonal, and nervous systems are affected by psychological stress. They can result in intestinal inflammation and disruption. Changes in gut bacteria such as overgrowth of bacteria can occur, and this is often the cause of the irritable bowel disturbance. Also, if someone already suffers from IBS, stress may worsen or provoke symptoms.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease, otherwise known as (GERD) or acid reflux, is when the lower sphincter of the esophagus becomes weakened and relaxed, and therefore unable to function correctly.
Substances in the body, referred to as prostaglandins help to regulate and protect the stomach from the acid that breaks down food. Studies show that stress is directly related to acid reflux, so much so that the severity of the reflux can be dependent on the degree of stress experienced.
Peptic Ulcer Disease
Peptic ulcers most commonly create a burning sensation in the stomach but can be felt anywhere between the navel and breastbone. Symptoms can include bloating, burping, poor appetite, vomiting, and weight loss.
One study demonstrates how those with high perceived everyday stress in life are twice as more likely to be at risk of being diagnosed with peptic ulcer disease compared to those who did not recognize their stress to be high.
Preventing Gut Health Issues Caused by Stress
Adding probiotics to your diet is an effective way to help balance bacteria in the gut. But the only way to limit the impact of stress on the digestive system is to manage it effectively. Managing stress can be addressed in all sorts of ways, but here are a few that we recommend.
- Practice meditation
- Start journaling
- Seek emotional support
- Work on your work-life balance
- Give yoga a try
- Get into an exercise routine
- Get some fresh air
- Practice breathing techniques
A Note from GR8NESS
If you experience adverse effects of being stressed, primarily related to gut health, consider consulting with your healthcare provider about treatment.