Digestion is controlled by the enteric nervous system, a system composed of the same neurotransmitters that make up the central nervous system. Because the brain and spinal cord are the communication centers of the central nervous system, stress can cause your digestion to come to a complete halt or move at a faster speed than normal. If you’re in a dangerous situation, for example, your body will stop digestion so it can focus its energy on the immediate threat.
It works the other way around, too. Issues with digestion can cause an increase in anxiety or stress in any normal situation.
If you’re experiencing problems with digestion due to stress, here are 4 ways to decrease the stress in your life for better digestive health.
Exercise is a great way to release positive chemicals in your brain and reduce your stress levels. Try to get some form of moderate exercise for at least 30 minutes per day, like walking, running, lifting weights, yoga, or playing sports. Make sure to exercise in the morning or daytime because if you exercise too close to bedtime you will lose sleep and be even more stressed the next day.
Speaking of sleep, it can have a huge impact on your stress levels. Getting 7 – 9 hours of sleep per night is recommended – anything less than that can cause a decrease in brain function, resulting in stress in other areas of your life.
In times of stress, it can feel good to grab a box of donuts or chow down on some candy. Unfortunately, although junk food can give you temporary satisfaction, it will cause more long-term stress on your digestion and mind. A healthy diet allows your body to function to the best of its ability, giving you a decreased risk of stress.
Sometimes talking to someone can be the simplest solution in stressful situations. Whether it’s a friend, family member, or therapist, talking about what is stressing you out can feel like a weight lifted off your chest, and will help you avoid digestive issues.
Because stress is directly related to problems with digestion, try some of these tips to decrease the stress in your life. Your body and mind will thank you!