Some people call them butterflies, others call them jitters, but one thing’s for sure: that fluttering feeling in your stomach is never fun. It’s also a lot more than just “nerves”. Here’s how stress and digestion work together to scramble your stomach–and how you can fight back and bust stress for better health.
Stress and Digestion: a Tale as Old as Time
You guessed it: it all comes down to the gut. Your gut and your brain are intimately connected–in fact, the gut is often called the second brain, as it affects and is affected by a huge range of physical processes ranging from sleep to mood and, yes, stress.
Whether you’re late for work, giving a presentation or about to meet someone new for the first time, the queasy, anxious rippling in your stomach is not just emotions: it’s a physical reaction produced by stress hormones coursing through your body and sending signals to, among other organs and systems, your gut.
So why does this happen?
Fight-or-Flight and You
You’ve probably heard of fight-or-flight. Many people are familiar with this concept from science and history textbooks (and those illustrations of fur-clad cave people with a saber-tooth tiger looming behind them). While that’s certainly where it began, fight-or-flight continues to haunt us (and help us) right into the modern age, even with nary a saber-tooth in sight.
At its simplest, the fight-or-flight response is your body’s ingrained reaction to stressful situations. From trembling and sweating to turning pale, all the symptoms of fight-or-flight are actually side effects of adrenaline shooting through your body as it prepares to face danger and send blood to your limbs. To do so, it needs to pull the blood from somewhere.
The fight-or-flight process actually starts with stress, and digestion shutting down. That’s right–the queasy feeling you might get in a stressful everyday situation is your body actually closing your digestion for business in order to preserve energy and prepare you to flee–or fight–for your life.
How to, Well, Fight Fight-Or-Flight
Our bodies can’t understand the nuances of situations–meaning that your brain may be stressed about a presentation at work, but this causes your body to believe it’s in imminent danger. We all get into stressful situations in our everyday lives; however, chronic stress–meaning when your body is in a constant state of low-level fight-or-flight–can have serious, long-term implications for both mental and digestive health, including acid reflux, inflamed gut, weight gain and impaired digestion.
For people suffering from IBS and other chronic gastrointestinal issues, the effects of stress on the gut can be even worse: imagine a vicious cycle of stress about gut problems, and then that stress causing gut problems and in turn leading to more stress…and so on.
To learn more about stress and digestion, and living with IBS, check out our blog on the topic!
Reducing Stress Everyday
One of the keys to handling stress is to use calming techniques in your everyday life. This can include meditation, mindful eating, and stress-busting activities such as yoga (which is scientifically proven to lower cortisol levels and help reduce stress). Getting in the right “headspace” ahead of time can also help to calm you down; when you have a stressful event ahead of you, try to take a few minutes ahead of time to calm yourself down and remind yourself that this too shall pass; this can go a long way towards helping your body understand that you’re not in any danger.
Check out this article to learn more about reducing stress to help manage IBS and other digestive symptoms.
Take the Stress Out of Gut-Friendly Recipes
At Fody, we’re all about healthy eating for a healthy life–so how could we not bring food into it? One of the keys to beating stress is to give your body what it needs. When faced with stress, it’s typical to lose your appetite, or fall prey to over-eating. Sticking to a healthy, regular and balanced diet helps your body get the right nutrients; it’s also important because eating regular meals, and cooking regularly can help you stay in a healthy routine, and can help you face those unexpected ups and downs while keeping your stress and digestion in check.
Cooking foods that help your gut stay healthy doesn’t have to be a complicated or stressful process. Whether you’ve got a sensitive gut or you’re just trying to eat a little healthier, Fody Foods has a wide array of gut-healthy sauces, oils and condiments that make pulling together delicious meals easier than ever.