Last week, I explained Adrenal Fatigue in a nutshell (read here if you missed it). Today I’m going to focus on how too much stress can impair the digestive process in your body.
When our body is in a state of elevated stress, our digestive system is directly impacted. Our central nervous system has 3 components, the sympathetic, the parasympathetic and the less known enteric nervous system. The enteric nervous system helps regulate digestion. This system is what medical researchers refer to as the brain-gut axis (1).
The process of digestion is an intelligent cascade of events that our bodies carry out frequently. Beginning with the smell of food our digestive process begins, as soon as food hits our mouth the body begins signaling for the passage and breakdown of the nutrients. Beginning with taking the foods apart and sending the useful nutrients into the bloodstream and pushing the waste thru for elimination in a timely manner. Optimal health is dependent on optimized digestion.
When our bodies are stressed to the point of “fight or flight” our nervous system may go so far as to shut down digestion so that your body can focus energy on the perceived threat. If the stress level is less intense our body will instead simply slow the process, or speed it up, or food will move through our body but the nutrient extraction process will be impaired.
Now imagine you experience some form of chronic stress. Not good.
Now add the potential that you are eating a diet that leads to inflammation of the intestinal tract? Or that your stomach acid level is compromised and the acid bath that your food is supposed to get to kill pathogens isn’t working well. Or imagine your body’s stress response is to “dump” your digestive tract. Can you get sufficient nutrients when food is passing too rapidly?
As I mentioned above, medical researchers are looking into the brain-gut axis to try to understand better how stress leads to digestive disease.
Herbalists have been in the business of optimizing digestion with herbs for a few thousand years. If you need support with stress or digestion or both, contact me for a consult!