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.