TMJ Center of Los Angeles

Stop Stressing Out Your Stomach (Four Ways Stress Is Hurting Your Digestive System)

You hear it all the time. High levels of stress are bad for you. Whether it’s relationship issues, problems at work, financial struggles, or anything in between, stress can build up in a hurry, and that can cause any number of problems, including ones in your digestive system.

Why Does Stress Affect My Digestive System?

Your body is amazing, but sometimes it struggles with multitasking. When it has to deal with managing stress and goes into “fight or flight mode,” your body becomes worried more about running for your life than digesting your food. That can lead to the following issues:

  • Slower Gut Peristalsis: When you eat, there’s a certain amount of time that you want your food to stay in your digestive system before it’s excreted. The body needs time to absorb necessary nutrients, but it also wants to get rid of waste as quickly as possible after that process is complete. When you are stressed, this digestion process can shut down. That leads to massive constipation, which keeps the toxins and waste in your body that you would otherwise excrete.
  • Heartburn: One fifth of the country deals with some form of heartburn. This physiological stress response can make the sphincter between the esophagus and stomach spasm. That can allow stomach acid back into the esophagus, and the burning of the esophageal lining creates the sensation of heartburn. And while smoking, poor diet, and alcohol can all play a factor in generating heartburn, a fast-paced schedule and talking negatively about yourself can present a similar response.
  • Gut Immunity: Approximately 60-80% of your body’s immunity falls within your gut, making your digestive system the largest immune organ in your body. Within that system are pounds of bacteria in your gut at all times. The good bacteria helps you fight off viruses and disease, but the chemical reaction that happens during stress response wipes out a large chunk of that bacteria, which can weaken your immune system over time.
  • Metabolism: During a fight or flight stress response, blood is redirected to your brain and your limbs so you can make quick decisions and execute them. So if your body is stressed while you eat, due to factors such as a poor emotional state, eating too fast, eating too much, or any other number of variables, your metabolism can slow down. And the side effects multiply because stress releases two hormones — cortisol and insulin — that tell your body to store fat and build muscle.

You know that too much stress is bad for you, but now you know that it can be detrimental to your digestive system as well. For tips on dealing with stress and managing a healthy digestive system, call the Beverly Hills Center for Digestive Health today.

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