KEY 5: Reduce Negative Effects of Stress on Digestion
Several nerves connect the nervous system of our digestive tract to the central nervous system (CNS) and, vice versa, the CNS to our GI tract. Through these cross connections, sensory information can be provided to the GI tract and CNS, and the CNS can affect our GI function. But remember what happens to the central nervous system when we are stressed? Digestion takes place when the “rest and digest” system is stimulated. When the fight or flight nervous system is stimulated by stress, digestive function effectively shuts down, as blood flow to the area is redirected to our limbs for “escape”. Chronic stress is known to bring on symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and to exacerbate symptoms of inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Ongoing stress also sensitizes our gut and contributes to inflammation, leading to more food allergies.
In a study published in the British Medical Journal (February 2007), researchers found irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) patients were significantly more likely to report high levels of stress and anxiety. They were also prone to be driven individuals who would carry on regardless of their level of discomfort until they were forced to rest – a pattern of behavior known to worsen and prolong the condition.
Stress, anxiety, depression or sleep irregularities can definitely cause symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, including gas, bloating, cramping or alternating diarrhea and constipation. Furthermore, these symptoms are worsened when sufferers are stressed, anxious or sleep deprived. Determining which comes first, the emotional state or the digestive symptoms, can be difficult. Those of us who suffer from IBS may learn as children to cope with stressful situations by developing digestive symptoms. Other research suggests that IBS sufferers have difficulty adapting to life situations in general, but it’s difficult to assess. It’s essential to control your cortisol by calming your mind and body at the same time, herbal medicines like Relora and theanine can be very helpful in as little as two weeks. Clear Cortisol has both relora and theanine which help support cortisol levels and in turn can help with digestion.