How Stress Impacts Digestion

What is stress? Definition: a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances1. Stress in your life could be due to a myriad of reasons and everyone responds to stress differently. What we know for sure is that our bodies are well equipped to handle stress in small doses, but when that stress becomes long-term or chronic, it can have serious effects on your body2.

Think back to the last time you were stressed out – how did you feel in your body? Chances are that your stomach might have felt a little off. Experiencing stomach-discomfort during times of stress is incredibly common. Two organs that are in constant communication are your brain and your gut. There is a two way superhighway that runs back and forth called the vagus nerve3. The vagus nerve helps your body respond to stress and day-to-day activities by flipping the switch between rest and digest and fight or flight3.

When the body is not under stress, the vagus nerve sends commands that slow heart and breathing rates and increase digestion. In times of stress, control shifts to the fight or flight response, which produces the opposite effect2.

When a person is in a state of stress, normal digestive functions can become impaired. This can result in issues like heart burn, low energy due to improper food break down, diarrhea, bloating, and constipation.

If you are experiencing digestive issues due to stress, there are a few tools you can lean on to support stress resilience and digestive function. The importance of self-care when we are under chronic stress cannot be overstated. Self-soothing practices that combine breathing exercises and focused attention (mindfulness) to help relax and quiet mind and body are a wonderful way to center oneself and bring us back into the present moment. Meditation and yoga are also wonderful techniques to adopt because they can modulate neurotransmitters involved in stress-induced psychological disorders such as anxiety4.

In addition to self-care practices, adding key supplements to ensure your body has everything it needs to thrive is important. One of our go-to formulas is StressEase™ by Jamieson. This multi-vitamin and mineral formula provides important nutrients like B vitamins and magnesium to provide stress relief and to support energy production.

Bringing in specific herbs, like adaptogens, can help us activate our rest and digest state so that we may improve our resilience to stress. Jamieson’s Mushroom Complex is a good example of a formula that includes adaptogens for daily support. Mushrooms have been used as traditional medicine for thousands of years in countries such as China, Japan, and Taiwan. Chaga, Shiitake, and Lion’s Mane all support immune health and Reishi is an adaptogen to help increase energy and resistance to stress.

 

References:

  • Merriam-Webster (online), Stress, Accessed Feb 15th at: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/stress
  • American Psychological Association. (2018, November 1). Stress effects on the body. Accessed: Feb 15th at: http://www.apa.org/topics/stress/body
  • Breit, S., Kupferberg, A., Rogler, G., & Hasler, G. (2018). Vagus Nerve as Modulator of the Brain-Gut Axis in Psychiatric and Inflammatory Disorders. Frontiers in psychiatry9, 44. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2018.00044
  • Divya Krishnakumar, Michael R Hamblin, Shanmugamurthy Lakshmanan. Meditation and Yoga can Modulate Brain Mechanisms that affect Behavior and Anxiety-A Modern Scientific Perspective. Anc Sci. 2015 Apr; 2(1): 13–19. doi: 10.14259/as.v2i1.171