Stress’s Impact On Digestion

Many people experience wide array of digestive difficulties from time to time. While many of these issues can be precipitated by a host of ailments, one overlooked eliciting factor is stress.

Stress Defined

Stress is the body’s natural means of coping with a heightened state of physical, mental or emotional tension. Many issues might precipitate such anxiety including but not limited to illness, financial struggles, professional concerns or familial conflicts.

The Manner In Which Stress Impacts Bodily Function

Sudden, severe incidents of stress, as well as chronic states of heightened anxiety causes the body to secrete and release elevated quantities of “stress hormones,” such as adrenaline and cortisol. These substances stimulate many internal systems, causing said entities to work at an accelerated rate. Among the bodily tracts impacted by increased stress levels is the digestive system.

Stress’s Impact Upon The Digestive System

The digestive tract contains nerves that comprise a branch of the central nervous system known as the intrinsic nervous system. When exposed to increased anxiety, the intrinsic nerves are stimulated, which might precipitate a reaction from any component of the digestive tract including the esophagus, the stomach or the intestines.

These organs are responsible for executing crucial functions such as breaking food down into digestible products, nutrient absorption and excretion. Should any of these processes be interrupted, an impacted person might experience a bevy of symptoms like swallowing difficulties, abdominal cramping, appetite loss, diarrhea, constipation, nausea, vomiting, indigestion, heartburn (acid reflux).

Though, in certain instances, said physical manifestations may ebb once the stressful event has passed, heightened tension can precipitate more serious, continual digestive disorders like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD), stomach ulcers and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Any of the preceding conditions typically require diagnosis and treatment and, in some cases, could precipitate potentially dangerous complications.

Addressing Stress-Related Digestive Concerns

Arguably, the most important action someone experiencing continual digestive issues can take is to receive a thorough medical evaluation to rule out the presence of a more serious precipitating factor and identify the most appropriate treatment options should a non-related stress issue be detected.

However, should a medical professional conclude that one’s digestive struggles can be traced back to stress exposure, there are certain techniques said individuals can employ as a means of alleviating or potentially eliminating associated symptoms such as exercising, allowing themselves frequent, short breaks during the workday, as well as identifying specific stressors one is exposed to unnecessarily and avoid such pitfalls.

Sources:

1. https://adaa.org/learn-from-us/from-the-experts/blog-posts/consumer/how-calm-anxious-stomach-brain-gut-connection
2. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/11874-stress
3. https://www.healthline.com/health/stress/effects-on-body
4. https://www.everydayhealth.com/wellness/united-states-of-stress/how-stress-affects-digestion/