How Does Stress Affect Your Digestive System?

Stress & digestion in AtlantaYou may not realize just how in sync your brain and gut are. They constantly communicate with each other, sending signals back and forth via the vagus nerve. Because your brain and gut have such a close relationship, your gastrointestinal system is highly sensitive to your emotions, including stress.

If you find yourself in a stressful, tense, overwhelming or upsetting situation, those feelings can directly affect every part of your digestive system, from your esophagus to your stomach to your intestines. In this post, the team at Piedmont Colorectal Associates explains why.

Your Body Under Stress

When faced with a stressful situation, your sympathetic nervous system triggers a “flight-or-flight” response, flooding your body with adrenaline and cortisol, the stress hormone. This prepares your body to take on the potential threat.

Unfortunately, the fight-or-flight response can have an adverse effect on your digestive system. Any of the following can happen:

  • Spasms of the esophagus
  • Increase in acid in the stomach, leading to indigestion
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation

In some cases, stress can limit blood and oxygen flow to the stomach, causing an imbalance in gut bacteria and inflammation. As a result, pre-existing inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome or other gastrointestinal disorders may worsen.

Tips to Manage Stress

As you can understand, it is crucial to keep stress to a minimum — for the sake of your gut.

Everyone deals with stress in his or her own way. You may try managing stress through regular exercise, deep breathing exercises, yoga or meditation practices.

Sugar, caffeine and alcohol consumption are not recommended during high-stress periods. Try to make good dietary choices, like cutting back on caffeinated and alcoholic beverages and substituting foods high in sugar and/or fat for more nutritious foods..

If you are dealing with an inordinate amount of stress in your life, you may need to address it with your primary care provider or another member of your health care team. You do not have to go through stressful periods alone — there are medical professionals available to help you!

Contact the Team at Piedmont Colorectal Associates

If you feel in control of the stress in your life but still experience complications of your digestive system, a bigger problem could be to blame. It would be wise to consult with a doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of gastrointestinal disorders to identify the root cause of your symptoms.

For more information about the effects of stress on digestive health, please call or email Piedmont Colorectal Associates today.