The food that we eat nourishes our body by providing us essential nutrients. In order to absorb the nutrients from food, it must be broken down into an absorbable form. This involves physical as well as chemical processes and is together called the digestive process. Digestion begins in the mouth as we chew the food, it then moves to the stomach where it mixes with gastric juices and is converted into a form called ‘chyme’ which is further released to the small intestine where most of the nutrients are absorbed and it is passed to the large intestine where minimal nutrient absorption happens and feces is formed for elimination.
Digestion is influenced by several factors such as diet composition, physical exercise, obesity, stress, and smoking. Among the many factors that affect digestion, this post is focused on the effect of stress on digestion. Although stress is common to everyone which could be physical, emotional, or psychological, uncontrolled or long-term stress deteriorates our health and results in sickness.
Stress and digestion
Stress affects people daily and can be caused by lack of sleep, work pressure, social or family issues, fear, anger, and many other factors. Extreme stress has a negative effect on our digestive system. It causes cramping, an imbalance in the bacteria required for digestion in the gut, and other digestive problems. There is an extensive network of nerve cells lining the digestive tract which is called the Enteric Nervous System. The link between our gut and brain is called the gut-brain axis and information/signals are exchanged here. This is one of the reasons why our mental health and physical health are related and can influence each other. For example, when you are excited you have the ‘butterflies in your stomach’ feeling and when we have improper digestion our mood is affected too.
Healthy Mind, Healthy Gut
We now know that our gut and mind are connected and can influence each other, we must learn to manage stress as well as take care of our diet to avoid digestive problems. In case of digestive problems, it is important that you don’t delay consulting a doctor and getting it treated. It is also important to eat a healthy and balanced diet, eating at right time and the right portion size.
To manage stress, prioritize exercise and self-care, reduce caffeine intake, spend some time in nature and try to make a schedule that helps in creating a balance between work and personal life. These are a few ways that could help handle stress positively.
As stress and digestion are related to each other, ‘A healthy mind in a healthy body’ is always to be focused on when we get stressed or when we choose unhealthy food.