Having a digestive system thats not doing its job right is an awful feeling. And unfortunately, its a feeling that affects thousands of people every single day. Everything from minor issues like constipation, indigestion and just general intestinal and abdominal discomfort, to more serious problems like IBS or Crohns disease.
All of these are problems rooted in digestive issues and they can be caused by a number of different things like diet and lifestyle. Some people are just unlucky enough to have a genetic inclination towards digestive issues.
Something else that we dont often hear about in connection with your digestive system is stress. We should be talking about this one though because it could be one of the contributors to your digestive problems.
How Stress Can Affect Your Digestion
Something that a lot of people dont realize about their gut is that its one of the most prominent body parts involved in the nervous system. There is an awful lot more to the digestive system than people realize and this is one thing that people should learn about because it will change the way you treat your gut. The gut is packed full of neurons and chemicals, and there are almost as many in there as you would find in the spinal cord.
So as you can imagine, any problems in your gut can cause a lot of stress on your nerves and consequently on your brain too. Youve probably heard the word serotonin before. This hormone is one of the main factors in your mood. And funnily enough, its produced almost entirely in your digestive system. When youre stressed, your body focuses blood flow on your muscles and away from your digestive tract.
This means that your digestive system will slow down and become less efficient the more stressed out you are. This will cause things like constipation and intestinal discomfort, the unpleasant but less serious issues that we talked about. But the more often your body is subjected to these issues, the more serious the problems in your digestive tract will become.
It can limit the diversity in the microorganism in your digestive tract, meaning that your intestinal flora will become stilted and ineffective. Intestinal flora, in case youre unaware of it, is important for maintaining a strong immune system. So chronic stress leads to weak intestinal flora which in turn leads to a weak immune system, meaning that youll be sick more often.
A weak immune system, especially one thats caused by inefficient gut flora, can lead to things like IBS and polyps. And eventually, even bowel or colorectal cancer. In truth, long-term stress can be catastrophic for your digestive system.
How Can You Deal With This?
The first obvious answer to this question is to try and eliminate the amount of stress you deal with on a daily basis. Thats easier said than done of course. But it can be done if youre willing to work on it. Improving your mental health will help with digestion and it works the other way too.
The best course of action to start with is finding out what it is thats actually causing your stress in the first place. It could be any number of things. Stress can come from a bunch of different places - some of them you may have never even considered before. It could be something to do with family. If youre going through a divorce, a bereavement or any kind of familial conflict, this could almost definitely stress you out.
Any kind of relationship or friendship issues can be stressful too. Even some major change that seems like a positive thing on the surface. If youve moved houses or moved jobs recently that could be it. You might be happy about the change but its still a major change and this can trigger an imbalance.
It could even be something as simple as not getting enough sleep or not getting outside enough. Find out about what normally causes people stress and see if its a factor in your life. Then try and change it and see if youre still stressed. If you are, its probably something else. Keep doing this until your find the root of the problem and then adapt accordingly.
Being stressed is bad enough, but having problems with your digestion on account of your stress is a whole other level of misery. You can make sure that this doesnt become a problem for you. And if it already is, there are effective ways to deal with it.