Emotional Stress and Your Gut – A (Not So) Love Story
Today’s society seems ever-focused on the high—high tech, high speed, and high stress, that is. Stress permeates all areas of life: your job (or frustration with unemployment), finances, family, daily commute, even your sleep. All of these areas affect your emotional state, which directly affects your gut and digestive system. Have you ever consoled yourself with food because you’re stressed, angry or sad? Skipped a meal because you were too angry to eat? Please, read on.
One of the most detrimental effects stress has is disrupting healthy eating habits. When you’re under high stress, eating right, or at all, isn’t high on the list. Outside pressure and a lowered emotional state create cravings for comfort foods—those high sugar, high fat, quick and tasty but nutrient-devoid treats. These junk foods slow down digestion and add to the already disrupted state caused by stress. This creates a vicious cycle of propping oneself up with sugar and caffeine, only to crash and feel worse off.
How do you know if your gut is ‘stressed’?
Symptoms of stress on the gastrointestinal system include, but are not limited to:
- Heartburn or indigestion
- Changes in bowel habit causing diarrhea, constipation, and irritable bowel syndrome
- Difficulty breaking down food and absorbing nutrients
- Stomach discomfort or fatigue directly after meals
- Weakened immune response (more than 60% of your immune system is in your gut)
- Increase in food sensitivities/intolerance
What can I do about it?
For general stress management, try to get one relaxing activity in each day. Pick something you’ll actually enjoy, but won’t cause additional stress. Some good options are yoga, tai chi, meditation, massage, swimming and walking. Assessing your daily diet is also a good step. Replace fast foods/processed junk with more natural, healthy options. There are many healthy meals and snacks that can be made in less time than it takes to hit up the drive-thru. Need some ideas? Check out some healthy breakfast, lunch, and snack options.
What about the emotional distress? In order to truly heal, it is necessary to tackle not only the surface manifestation, i.e. the physical symptoms, but also the emotional stress creating problems. The good news is, adding general stress management activities to your day can help. You may also benefit from keeping a daily journal, which is a healthy way to process and manage things that are bothering you. You can also start a Good Jar. Any time something good happens, regardless of size or significance, write it down on a bit of paper and put it in a jar or other container. This helps remind you that good things do happen, even on bad days. You can also revisit the bits as pick-me-ups on rough days.
If you feel your stress, be it emotional or digestive, is much to handle alone, don’t be afraid or ashamed to reach out for help. For some, professional assistance with emotional stress and/or working on a personalized nutrition plan may be the best start. Digestive (and emotional) stress can take time to overcome, but you’ll be surprised at what seemingly insignificant changes can do for you. The first step is taking charge of your own recovery and believing in yourself to do so. Don’t you deserve to feel better?
“There is no true healing unless there is a change in outlook, peace of mind and an inner happiness” -Dr. Edward Bach
About the Author:
Eric Bakker B.H.Sc. (Comp.Med), N.D, R.Hom. is a highly experienced naturopathic physician who has been in clinical practice for 25 years. Eric is passionate about improving people’s lives through proven wellness and lifestyle principles, natural medicine practice as well as public and professional practitioner education. Eric specialises in candida yeast infections, as well as adrenal fatigue, and thyroid disorders. Dr. Bakker has written one of the most comprehensive books on yeast infections called Candida Crusher. Website: candidacrusher.com You can complete his online survey to determine if you have a yeast infection here, or link through to his many YouTube videos: www.yeastinfection.org Dr. Bakker’s Blog: www.ericbakker.com