Your body relies on the microorganisms that live in your intestines for the nutrients it needs to survive. These bacteria help break down food into various essential nutrients that fuel your body’s biological processes. However, stress can have a great impact on your gut health. How your gut responds to stress depends on a variety of factors, including how you manage it and the balance of bacteria in your gut microbiome. Some people may have more “bad” gut bacteria than others and therefore are more prone to stress-related gut problems.
Exercise, avoidance of stressors, and a relaxing lifestyle can all reduce your stress levels. Talking to a mental health professional can also be helpful. Finding relaxation techniques and learning to meditate can also help. Increasing your intake of probiotics and fiber supplements can also boost your gut health and help relieve stress-related symptoms.
A diverse gut microbiome, which is full of beneficial bacteria, helps protect against stress, inflammation, and disease. To learn more about the impact of stress on your gut health, continue reading.
- What Is Stress?
- How Does Stress Impact Your Gut Health?
- How Does Stress Affect Your Digestive Health?
- What Happens When Your Body Is Stressed?
- Ways To Manage Stress And Keep Your Gut Healthy
What Is Stress?
When the body faces a threat or danger, it reacts to it with a burst of stress hormones. These hormones make your heart beat faster, breathe more deeply, and increase alertness. Scientists believe that these stress responses help you survive and protect your health in the short term.
But they can also be harmful when they happen all the time. Stress is a normal response to challenges and pressures that are part of your daily life. But if your stress feels too strong, happens too often, or feels like more than you can handle, talk to a trusted adult to get help and support.
How Does Stress Impact Your Gut Health?
First, stress causes the body to switch from the parasympathetic nervous system (relax and restore) to the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight). This shift in the brain’s neuronal network can result in a decrease in peristalsis, a wavelike contraction that moves food through your gastrointestinal tract. This can lead to a build-up of undigested food in your stomach, causing discomfort and bloating. Then, the increased production of cortisol in your body can reduce a hormone called prostaglandins, which helps reduce acidity in the stomach and prevent constipation. Secondly, stress can alter the balance of two other hormones in your body: ghrelin and leptin, which play an important role in appetite and the sensation of fullness.
These changes can cause you to feel hungry more often or lose your appetite. Thirdly, chronic stress can change the bacteria in your gut microbiome. This can affect your digestive and immune systems, as well as your mood. The good news is that you can improve your gut’s health by reducing your stress levels, making sure you’re eating a balanced diet, and taking a probiotic supplement.
If stress is causing you to experience GI symptoms like frequent bloating, gas, diarrhea or constipation, or any other issues, it’s important to see a doctor for an evaluation. GI symptoms can be a warning sign of more serious health conditions, so it’s important to seek care as soon as possible.
How Does Stress Affect Your Digestive Health?
There’s a growing body of research that links stress to digestive health. This includes irritable bowel syndrome, diarrhea, and other stomach problems. Some of the most common effects of stress on digestion include changes in food intake, increases in stomach acid secretion, and changes in how fast foods pass through the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.
Prolonged stress can also cause a condition called gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD. In addition, a condition called peptic ulcers can develop, a type of inflammatory bowel disease that occurs when stomach acid leaks into the esophagus. This can cause a burning or pain behind the breastbone that’s often mistaken for heartburn.
What Happens When Your Body Is Stressed?
When your body is under stress, your heart beats faster, your muscles tense, and your skin becomes more sensitive. Here are some things that happen when your body is stressed.
Causing Your Esophagus To Go Into Spasms
Your esophagus is a muscular tube that connects your mouth and stomach. It works by having waves of muscle contractions, called peristalsis, which move food or liquid from your mouth to your stomach. These contractions are caused by nerve signals that tell the muscles in your esophagus to contract. When you are under stress, it causes your esophagus to spasm.
1. Making You Feel Nauseous
During times of high anxiety, you might feel like your stomach is churning. When you’re anxious, your body releases adrenaline and cortisol to help your body react to the stress. But these hormones can also cause nausea, especially if they enter your digestive tract. The good news is that this type of nausea can usually be prevented and managed with the right care.
2. Giving You Diarrhea Or Constipation
When your body is stressed, your digestive system goes into overdrive. That means your intestines may not work as well, triggering diarrhea or constipation in the process. Diarrhea is usually a temporary problem that clears up within a few days. This type of diarrhea is as known as stress-induced diarrhea.
3. Increasing The Acid In Your Stomach
Stress can increase your stomach acid, and this can make it difficult to digest food. It can also cause acid to build up in your intestines, which may result in the same problems with food moving up into your esophagus. Some people with acid reflux or heartburn may be more sensitive to the pain of these symptoms due to stress.
Ways To Manage Stress And Keep Your Gut Healthy
Stress is a normal part of life, but long-term stress can have a negative impact on your health. Luckily, there are ways to manage stress and keep your gut healthy.
- Get Regular Exercise
- Consider Psychotherapy
- Choose Stress-Busting Foods
- Eat Prebiotics and Probiotics
- Kick The Smoking Habit
Stress can cause inflammation in your gut, which can lead to various digestive problems. Keeping your stress in check is important for your gut health. Chronic stress can lead to serious problems, including acid reflux, diarrhea, constipation, gas, bloating, indigestion, etc.
A healthy, balanced lifestyle and a good support network can help you manage your stress. When you need extra support to deal with a situation that is too much, ask your doctor for help.