The Impact of Stress on Digestion
Alfred Nobel, known for the Nobel Prize Institution, once said: “Worry is the stomach’s worst poison.”
I believe this noted 19-century Swedish chemist was on to something, and here's why. You see, whether you are worrying about an upcoming work presentation or stressing out over an overwhelming to-do list, your digestion (and general well-being) may pay the price.
That’s because your stomach and emotional state are linked, so any change in everyday stress can impact your digestive health and the complex microbiome that lives in your gut.
The Brain-Gut Connection
In a nutshell, the brain sends signals to the digestive or gastrointestinal tract (GI) via your nervous system (think fight or flight) parasympathetic system (think rest and digest).
The balance of these signals is critical when thinking about how stress impacts your gut. They affect the speed at which food moves through the digestive system, absorption of nutrients, secretion of digestive juices, and level of inflammation in the digestive system.
According to Harvard Health, the digestive system has its own nervous system, which scientists have dubbed the enteric nervous system. It consists of approximately 100 million nerve cells in and around the GI tract. It's so essential that some call it the "small brain" of the gut.
So how does this gut-brain connection work? Much like your brain, your GI tract depends on specific types of neurons and neurotransmitters to complete specific functions, as well as maintain communication with the central nervous system.
This close interconnectedness may explain why stress can trigger or exacerbate GI distress and vice versa. This back-and-forth dialog between the gut and the brain can create a vicious cycle.
No doubt, experiencing digestive upsets can make you even more stressed. And stressful day after stressful day can lead to gastrointestinal issues—or worsen existing issues, and more.
Everyday Stress Can Mess with Digestion + Immunity
Microbes that live in your gut affect your brain and how it functions. They also can affect your immunity.
Gut and gut microbes play an important role in your immune system and inflammation by controlling what is passed into the body and what is excreted.[i]
Research suggests there is a regular communication between the brain-gut axis, the immune system, and the gut microbiome.[ii]
What exactly happens when you’re having “one of those days”? Harmful bacteria start to flourish, and good bacteria begin to die off. This process changes the way foods are digested.
In turn, this may lead to occasional digestive woes, including upset stomach, gas, cramping, bloating, irregular bowel movements, and more.
What Can Help?
I believe that digestive upsets may be a sign you are more stressed than you think. But some stress in daily life is inevitable. Fortunately, there are ways to manage and even minimize those “gut-wrenching” periods.
Regular exercise can support digestion and help cultivate calm. There are even certain yoga poses – such as bridge pose and supine twist – which can help manage those uncomfortable GI symptoms brought on by everyday stress.
Often on those non-stop days, we forget about nutritious eating. And that’s a mistake.
Reach for prebiotic- and probiotic-rich foods that help promote good gut bacteria. Fruits and veggies, such as asparagus, garlic, and bananas, contain prebiotics. Probiotic-rich foods include fermented foods, like yogurt, kombucha, and sauerkraut.
Managing occasional stress can help lower inflammation in the gut and ease GI upset. In turn, your body will thank you because now it can focus on absorbing the nutrients you need.
When normal stress rears its angry head, consider adding targeted dietary supplements. AVA-Certified Vegetarian Zenwise® DigeSTRESS™ features Zenwise & Chill and Digestive proprietary blends to help keep mind and tummy at peace.†
This product includes Reliably Alive™ DE111®, a clinically proven probiotic that supports normal gut health, bowel movement, and immune function.† Plus, a second probiotic, LactoSpore®, works to support gut flora.
DigeSTRESS™ also includes Sensoril® Ashwagandha that may help promote focus, clarity, and relaxation from external stressors. †
In the end, it’s not about living with zero everyday stressors. Being aware of everyday stress and keeping it in check can make your brain and your gut happier and healthier.
Written by: Vanessa Rissetto
†These statements have not been evaluated by the food and drug administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.