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The Link Between Stress and Digestive Health

Posted by Angie Schumacher on

No one lives without stress. Stress can show up in the forms of job loss, family and relationship problems, and health issues among others. 

Some forms of stress can be beneficial. Getting nervous before a sporting event or as an adrenaline rush to keep you alert. These are usually short term and serve a specific purpose. More often than not, you may notice that your body is taking a hit, both mentally and physically. 

You may notice all the emotions that come with stress over long periods of time. These raised levels can upset your sleep cycles, cause heart issues, drain your energy levels, make you susceptible to weight loss or gain, cause stomach problems, and many more negative health changes.

Heart Health and Stress

Studies have indicated that anxiety and depression are stressors that could cause long-term effects on heart health which could eventually lead to heart disease. 

Anxiety is normal and is a reaction to stress that can cause us to be cautious and prevent us from making bad decisions or even keep us out of danger. Anxiety and nervousness are typically normal occurrences, but when they become chronic, evidence shows that cardiovascular disease increases. 

Examples of persistent anxiety and stress include:

  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Panic Disorder
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Social Anxiety 
  • Generalized Anxiety
  • And others

Symptoms that occur with stress from anxiety that have a negative impact include:

  • High blood pressure - frequent spikes weaken the heart muscle
  • Sleep problems - normal sleep helps lower blood pressure; poor sleeping patterns could affect your heart health
  • Rapid heart rate - this could restrict normal heart function

Your Digestive System and Stress

When the brain feels stress, it releases a number of hormones that can put your digestive system in crisis. Some of these hormones, like CRH (corticotropin releasing hormone), are released during stressful situations. CRH is pumped from the brain and tells the adrenal glands to make the adrenaline needed to give a person energy to run or fight. The problem with this release is that your appetite is turned off. 

Another spin off from CRH are the steroids triggered to make us hungry. This hunger can lead some people to fight stress with emotional eating. Typically emotional eating involves unhealthy foods like potato chips, chocolate, and other foods lacking in nutrition. This may cause unwanted weight gain.

Stress that may lead to unhealthy diets can eventually lead to:

  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Ulcers
  • Crohn’s disease

When working efficiently, your digestive tract can help relieve symptoms of stress. Having a healthy immune system can also reduce stress, and that comes directly from a stable, nutritional diet. 

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    aging, diet or other normal digestive issues.*
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