Does stress tie knots in your gut? If so then you are not alone.
According to the National Institutes of Health, 60-70 million Americans suffer from some form of digestive disease due to stress. The Canadian Digestive Health Foundation also states that over 20 million Canadians suffer from indigestion due to stress. Yes, stress and digestive problems are perfectly connected.
How stress affects your gut
The intestine and the brain have a close connection through the nervous system. The gut is heavily innervated – in fact, there are more nerve cells (neurons) in your gut-based nervous system than in the spinal cord.
The bowel-brain connection is done in two ways. And this is why we have “butterflies in our stomach” when we are nervous. Stress affects the gut – but the gut can also affect our stress response and mood. In fact, it is believed that about 90% of gut-brain communication goes from the gut to the brain.
These are just some of the ways in which stress can affect your gut:
- Stress can change the way your bowel moves, either too fast (diarrhea) or too slow (bloating and constipation).
- Stress can cause an exacerbation of ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease
- Stress can intensify the perception of pain
- Stress can change the number of bacteria living in your gut, leading to intestinal obstruction, inflammation and worsening of digestive symptoms.
- Stress can make the symptoms of reflux or ulcer worse
Stress and bowel movements
Stress can seriously affect your bowel movements. If, for example, you ever had to go to the bathroom before an important meeting at work, you know what I’m talking about. For some, stress speeds up bowel movement and can cause diarrhea. For others, it may slow down mobility, causing you to feel bloated and have constipation.
Stress can even make you hungrier or it can reduce your appetite, making it difficult to get the nutrients you need.
Now, if this happens for a day or two every now and then, it’s not really that bad. But what if this is your daily routine?
Some ways to improve digestion if you are stressed
Take care of both your stress and your diet
Before embarking on a miscarriage diet or buying supplements, think about your daily routine. See if you have a harmful or stressful relationship. Consider starting meditation or yoga. Try to spend time in beautiful, natural environments such as the beach, a park or the local forest. Light candles, take a relaxing bath, watch a funny movie.
Another tip: If you are very anxious, be careful what you eat. You can make choices of foods that are harmful, instead of helping your gut. Or you may eat too fast and not chew your food properly.
Eat more plant foods
Eating more plant-based foods can help protect the gut from the effects of stress. How; Plant foods contain fiber and fermentable carbohydrates that help regulate bowel movements and feed the microbiome so that it can produce low-chain fatty acids, which are believed to help alleviate intestinal obstruction and inflammation.
If your diet does not currently contain a lot of plant foods, especially fiber, such as whole grains and legumes, be sure to include them slowly. And this is because you want to train your gut to accept fiber, in the same way that you would train your body to run 10 kilometers.
Try the mint oil
If stress causes painful cramps in your gut, consider trying peppermint oil, which is an anticonvulsant supplement. More specifically, peppermint oil helps to soothe the smooth muscles of the intestine, so that you do not have cramps.
Spend time outside in nature
The time you spend outside, in a sunny local park or on the beach is very healing. Spending time outdoors is usually associated with improved mood and reduces stress.