Ever wondered why you get stomach cramps or lose your appetite when you’re anxious or stressed? As it turns out, the term “gut-wrenching” is more than a mere metaphor to describe emotional distress. Studies have shown a clear link between emotions and gut health. With more than 100 million nerve cells lining the gastrointestinal tract, the connection between our digestive system and central nervous system is so strong that scientists have nicknamed the neurons lining our gut as the “second brain”.
Under stressful situations, the nerve cells that lines our gastrointestinal tract responds with increased gastric acid production that impacts our digestive processes and causes indigestion. In more serious cases, individuals under high stress or chronic stress may also experience stomach cramps and exacerbate existing stomach ulcers or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms.
Beyond keeping a mindful diet and avoiding trigger foods, it is important for individuals suffering from GI symptoms to also find ways to better cope with stress.
Stress relieving techniques for a healthy gut
- Diaphragmatic Breathing
Diaphragmatic breathing, or deep breathing is a proven relaxation technique that helps with abdominal pain, bloating and constipation. Learn more about this technique in the demonstration tutorial by Megan Riehl, PsyD, Clinical Psychologist and Assistant Professor at University of Michigan.
- Regular exercise
Ironically, “physical stress” from exercising is an effective way for relieving mental stress. Besides reducing stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, exercising stimulates endorphins that helps our nervous system to cope with pain or stress.
- Mood-boosting foods
Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids have been proven to reduce depression and anxiety symptoms. Adding salmon and walnuts that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids to your diet can thus help as a mood booster. Dark chocolate is also a good choice of snack to keep at your work desk due to its mood-boosting compounds and ability to reduce catecholamines – a culprit that reduces the blood flow to intestines and contribute to indigestion.
While it has been established that emotional distress leads to digestive problems, more recent studies have also found evidence for the reverse, leading to a vicious cycle. Focus on both emotional and physical wellbeing should thus go hand-in-hand for GI patients. Phytor contains two vital formulations for supporting colon and stomach health naturally. More than just providing temporary relief, these have been designed to tackle the root cause of ailments for an improved gut health in the long run.
Hadhazy, A. (2010, February 12). Think Twice: How the Gut’s “Second Brain” Influences Mood and Well-Being. Scientific American. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/gut-second-brain/
How does exercise reduce stress? (2020, July 7). Harvard Health Publishing. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/exercising-to-relax
The Brain-Gut Connection. (n.d.) John Hopkins Medicine. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/the-brain-gut-connection
Larrieu, T., & Layé, S. (2018). Food for Mood: Relevance of Nutritional Omega-3 Fatty Acids for Depression and Anxiety. Frontiers in Physiology, 9. https://doi.org/10.3389/fphys.2018.01047
Wirtz, P. H., von Känel, R., Meister, R. E., Arpagaus, A., Treichler, S., Kuebler, U., Huber, S., & Ehlert, U. (2014). Dark Chocolate Intake Buffers Stress Reactivity in Humans. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 63(21), 2297–2299. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jacc.2014.02.580