Charlotte Labee

Stress and the effect on your digestion

Stress and the effect on your digestion

That stress bad for you is, just about everyone knows these days. This is primarily because it damages your brain.

But did you know that it also affects your digestion and thus the absorption of nutrients from your food?

How stress affects your digestion

During stress, the fear centre in your reptile brain (the amygdala) assumes a life-threatening situation.

This triggers a fight-or-flight response, which prepares your body to anticipate danger.

Your heartbeat speeds up, your muscles tense up and the brain increases the production of hormones such as (nor)adrenaline and cortisol.

Other bodily processes are temporarily halted

So your digestion is also on hold with stress.

Because, as your brain knows after millions of years of evolution, surviving is really more important than digesting that salad. That will come later!

There is only one problem with this mechanism in the brain today:

Our stress is often chronic rather than short-lived

The times when you could suddenly come face to face with a sabre-toothed tiger are now long gone. In such a situation, the fight-or-flight response was very useful.

These days, however, your brain triggers the same reaction when you check your overflowing calendar, see your mailbox overflowing or get a tough deadline imposed by your boss.

In other words, if you are like most people in our society , you experience chronic stress in your life.

And this is where the problems begin...

Because the symptoms associated with stress are not exactly healthy. Just think of:

  • An accelerated heartbeat
  • A higher blood sugar level
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • And a digestion that does not work as well

Not so bad for once, but not so bad when it happens every day.

The relationship between stress, brain and gut

To really understand the impact of stress on your digestive system, you need to know how the gut and the brain are connected and in constant communication with each other.

Your intestines contain so many neurons (these nerve cells are the building blocks of the brain) that some scientists consider the intestines a second brain.

These neurons are located in the mucous membrane of the gastrointestinal tract and form the enteric nervous system there.

Together with the central nervous system, the enteric nervous system regulates important digestive processes such as:

  • Swallowing food
  • Releasing enzymes to digest food
  • Dividing food into nutrients and waste products

What stress does to your digestion

As soon as the brain detects stress, it communicates with the neurons in the enteric nervous system. The message is clear: averting the impending danger is the priority and digestion goes on hold.

Because your digestive system is suddenly not working as well as it should, you may experience the following symptoms, among others, when under stress:

  • Esophageal cramps (also known as oesophageal spasms)
  • Stomach Acid
  • Nausea
  • Swollen belly
  • Diarrhoea or constipation
  • Sleeping badly
  • Gastritis

In addition, poor digestion can aggravate existing gastrointestinal complaints, such as:

  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
  • Stomach ulcers
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)

Do you suffer little from these kinds of complaints? Then realise:

Stress reduces the absorption of nutrients

This is because your digestion has temporarily stopped. As a result, you make fewer digestive enzymes and hydrochloric acid and your body cannot break down and process nutrients properly.

These include macronutrients that provide energy such as proteins, carbohydrates and fats. But also micronutrients that support your metabolism such as vitamins, minerals and trace elements.

This reduced absorption of nutrients causes your body to draw on its reserves. Important vitamins such as A, E, B and C are used first. This also applies to minerals such as magnesium, iron, copper, chromium and zinc.

This explains why you craving for sugar and sweets suddenly intensify in times of stress. Your body yearns for new energy, because the stress is robbing your reserves and stored nutrients.

Chronic stress is a vicious circle

That is why it is important to identify and remove your personal stressors, so that your brain can recover from them. A first step in the right direction is my one-year programme Update your brain with Brain Balance.

Here, for example, you will learn all about the relationship between stress, your brain, intestines, digestion and health. But we also deal with themes such as mindset, personal development and the relax your brain.

Something that is certainly also dealt with in this programme is the theme brainfood. Did you know that stress does not only influence the absorption of your food, but that with the right food you can actually reduce your stress considerably?

I personally find this topic so interesting, that I will write a new blog article about it soon. So keep an eye on the blog!

Order now!

How do I keep my mouth healthy? 6 tips

There is more to a balanced brain than meets the eye. Not only healthy intestines, but also a healthy brain is important.

Courgette pasta with asparagus and sun-dried tomato

Ingredients 1 onion 2 cloves garlic 300 gr spinach 1 red pepper 200 gr courgette pasta 50 gr green asparagus tips grate

Beet banana bread

Ingredients 170 grams pre-cooked beetroot 4 (ripe) bananas 3 eggs 150 grams spelt flour 25 grams raw cacao powder 80 grams walnuts

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