The gut, also known as “the second brain”, directly correlates with stress.
Our bellies and brains are in constant communication. Signals from intestinal organs quickly stream to the brain and vice versa. Stress alters gut bacteria, and gut bacteria impacts stress.
Whenever in despair, stress hormones release into the blood stream, causing our digestion to pause until our bodies are safe.
Of course, our bodies don’t want to waste extra energy churning food into energy when there is a chance of injury! This is how the human bodies have worked for ages, and for the most part, our bodies haven’t evolved extravagantly in the past few centuries.
However, studies suggest that we are now more stressed out than ever before due to stop and go traffic rather than fear of a stand-off with our potential dinner. Environmental factors changed, but the way our bodies fundamentally work have not.
The Belly as a “Thinking” Brain
The brain in our skulls and the nerves in our gut share many neuropathways, both influencing our feelings and decisions. We not only “think” with the brains in our heads, but also the brains in our guts.
Intuition and “gut-feelings” may be the reason you declined (or accepted!) a dinner date or didn’t walk down a certain alley.
Although you may not be able to put cognizant words (which are formed in the left hemisphere of the brain) about why you chose something, we all have had experiences where the brain in our guts influenced a decision.
Even the idea of food will cause juices to start flowing in your bellies to help with digestion. Going in the opposite direction, that angry, anxious feeling that arises when it’s been too long without food psychologically affects your mood, termed as “hangry”.
Common Gut Issues and Stress
Which comes first, stress or the belly aches? It’s kind of like asking about the chicken or the egg, but we know it goes both ways.
Dr. Howard Mertz of UNC Center for Functional GI & Motility says, “The onset of IBS and functional dyspepsia often begin with bereavement, abuse or other major negative life events.”
IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) and dyspepsia are two common tummy issues.
CRF, short for corticotropin releasing factor, is a neuropepetide that causes the colon to contract and digestion to halter when we are under stress. Both are symptoms of the two very common gastrointestinal issues mentioned above.
It is no shock that people with IBS may have greater sensitivity to CRF, causing their bowel movements to become quite erratic. Additionally, nearly 40% of people diagnosed with IBS are anxious, depressed, or both.
Food and Gut Stress
Before a six-pack, our belly’s first responsibility is to digest the food we eat. You can probably tell that fried foods leave you feeling sluggish, whereas healthy foods energize you.
In general, foods that are fatty, processed, with added sugars increase stress in most people whereas fresh fruits, veggies and whole grains decrease stress.
Learning more about Ayurveda and your dosha type will further help you discover foods that work best for your body type.
Gastrointestinal disorders are never fun and can cause even more stress. Choosing foods that are kind to your digestive system and doing whatever you can to keep your stress levels down will help you create a more balanced self.
Stay positive, get enough rest, and pop one of YouVeda’s Healthy Digestion tablets for an additional self-care habit!
Shop the Story: My Healthy Digestion
Author – Carolyn Gladd (YouVeda Wellness Contributor)