Digestive Care Expert Brenda Watson

Mind & Body

Managing Stress

Decrease the Stress in your LifeThe balance of mental, emotional & spiritual health in any individual is important.

Stress comes in many forms, and it is important to identify the source(s). Stress often stems from problems with relationships, work or finances. How do you find relief from stressful situations that occur in life? It depends on your everyday choices. For example, after a stressful day at work, do you take a walk, or stop at a bar for a few drinks?

The digestive system is very sensitive to stress levels.

The capability of the organs to produce enzymes can be adversely affected by stress. As stress continues, there is a notable increase in intestinal permeability, which can allow for the absorption of undigested food. The body reacts with antibody production against the undigested food because it is identified as 'foreign.' During any stress response, digestion suffers because blood and energy are diverted away from the digestive organs toward the skeletal muscles and brain - preparing the body for fight or flight. Eating should never occur when in such a state. If so, the food will not be digested, and an allergic reaction or sensitivity to it may well develop.

Regardless of degree of hunger, it is best to forgo eating until the stress response subsides or is consciously eliminated. Such conscious control can be learned by practicing techniques for relaxation of the body and mind. These techniques may involve the practice of meditation and/or relaxation exercises, physical exercises and deep breathing. Spending 'quiet time' alone, perhaps in a serene outdoor environment, may help reduce stress, as may listening to soothing music or recordings of nature sounds. Warm baths can be relaxing, as can massages. The practice of 'giving thanks' and maintaining a moment of silence before eating is one that is certainly conducive to relaxation and thus to good digestion as well.

It has been discovered fairly recently that the bowel wall has a 'mind of its own,' so to speak, in that it actually contains the same receptors as the brain and undergoes similar neurological processes, especially with regard to serotonin receptors. Essentially then, the bowel quite literally makes 'decisions' with regard to absorption and motility. These decisions, like decisions made by the brain, can be hugely influenced by our emotional state.

There are additional steps to take to create a more harmonious lifestyle and relieve stress when the need arises. Important considerations in the management of stress are lifestyle factors such as time management and exercise.

Helpful time management practices include:

  • Setting priorities - be realistic in what can be accomplished
  • Creating a definite eating plan for the week
  • Organizing the day

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