April is National Stress Awareness Month! But, do you know how your regular stress is affecting your body? Those butterflies in your stomach from nerves or the feeling of making a gut-wrenching decision are testaments to the idea that serious stress can greatly affect your gut health and digestive system.
There's a reason the digestive system is often referred to as the second brain in the body! This is because the gut has a system filled with neurotransmitters, even more so than the brain's central nervous system.
When we experience stress, the brain activates the sympathetic nervous system known for producing the "fight or flight" response which prepares the body for danger by conserving other bodily functions that aren't needed, including digestion. When this occurs, the stomach slows down, and stress is placed on the large intestine, often causing stomach aches, gas, bloating, heartburn, nausea, and diarrhea.
Whether you struggle with a diagnosed condition or are unsure of the root cause of your digestive problems, stress reduction is always beneficial in improving your digestive health and calming your stomach. Some tips for helping to reduce your stress and alleviating digestive discomfort as a result include:
Seek support when needed - Sometimes, you can't do it on your own, and that's okay! Practice good coping skills by seeking support from friends, family, and loved ones when needed, whether quality time spent together or talking about your stress. If needed, reach out to a professional or doctor for help managing your stress and digestive health.