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Stress Affects Digestion!

We are all aware of how stress can be detrimental to our health, but did you know that it can be the underlying cause of digestives issues too?

Fight or flight

The sympathetic nervous system controls our fight or flight system which responds to stress. This prepares the body to run fast or fight hard. It pumps up the heart and lungs, gets blood to the arms and legs and slows down digestion. Hormones like cortisol and adrenaline are released to help us perform under stress. This state is all about surviving danger and digesting a meal is not priority in times like this.

Conversely the para sympathetic system controls our rest and digest responses. This is when the heart rate slows, the breathing slows and the fight hormones are switched off. Blood supply is increased to the digestive system to kickstart the process.

So, you can see how important it is to have a calm restful mealtime to properly process our food and allow our gut to take as many nutrients as it needs to fuel our bodies and minds.

The effects of daily stress

If we have continuous underlying stress daily, then we never fully enter the rest and digest state. Our bodies are trying to digest and fight at the same time. Something must give, signals get confused, responses slow down. Dealing with daily excessive stress saps our energy leaving less for our digestive functions. It also means we never fully rest, so can be on edge, continually needing to be busy, unable to relax and leading to poor sleep patterns.

When we rest our body takes care of repairs so losing out on it means poor functioning. It can also lead to foggy brain and difficulty with problem solving and performance. Research is now showing that our brain has a lymphatic system that clears away toxins through spaces that appear when we sleep.

IBS type symptoms of bloating, reacting to foods, gassiness, constipation and/or diarrhoea can also flare up. It can also lead to malnutrition because food doesn’t break down properly and vital minerals and vitamins pass through without being absorbed. So all these lead to a never ending cycle of digestive issues, which creates more stress, which creates fatigue, and so it goes on.

One of the functions of our gut it is storing and releasing chemicals that transmit messages to your brain about how to respond to situations and environment. They can tell us to feel happy, safe, and help us problem solve. If the gut is continually being diminished because of ongoing stress, then these chemicals can’t get through to the brain and may lead to anxiety and depression.

Check in with yourself

So, if you are having digestive issues, examine exactly how you are feeling before you eat. Taking time to breath deeply before a meal can switch on the para sympathetic system more fully, preparing your body to focus on digestion.

Taking time over a meal of healthy wholesome food will help as more nutrients are present to boost and repair the body. Fibre in wholefoods feed the bacteria in our gut helping to improve our health and immunity. And fermented food such as natural yoghurt, sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha, and pickles all contain good bacteria.

Getting fresh air and breathing fully takes in enough oxygen to clean our gut and help the bacteria thrive.

A healthy gut will release serotonin, the happy neurotransmitter, improving mood and mental health.

Finding ways to switch off and feel calm and relaxed are vital to deal with stress. If something is fun and enjoyable it will help take us there more easily.

Take some time to figure out if there are steps you can take to interrupt the patterns of stress and digestive issues.


Helping you be your best self!

P.S. A colonic is also a great way to break the cycle and help get things back on track.

Check out my website for more details on colonics at


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