Digestive difficulties are ALL too common for most people – but they shouldn’t be.
Our tendency is to immediately think, ‘food – I must be allergic / intolerant to something’. (More and more people are requesting food allergy testing from me for this reason).
And, while this certainly can be the case, it’s definitely not the ‘only’ factor that needs to be considered. In fact, the first thing I look at when someone comes to me with digestive problems is, how stressed are they?
Stress can play a HUGE role in digestive disturbances.
The stress response is so potent, that it immediately affects our digestive capacity, by shunting blood away from our internal digestive organs, towards our skeletal muscles – so that we can ‘fight-or-flight’.
This ancient nervous system response, ‘fight-or-flight’, is the knee-jerk reaction of our body to perceived stressors in our environment – whether that be something ‘insignificant’ like being late for a meeting due to terrible traffic, or something more serious like real trauma.
For many of us in the modern world, the part of our nervous system that controls this ‘fight-or-flight’ response is CONSISTENTLY turned on, hence creating the signs and symptoms within our bodies that reflect this. Anxiety. Heart palpitations. Dizziness. Quick, shallow breathing. Sweating.
And, troubled digestion!
Over time, when blood is consistently being shunted away from the digestive organs, your body becomes extremely limited in its capacity to break down the foods you eat, extract and absorb the nutrients it needs, and get rid of waste. Because of this, we can experience uncomfortable digestive signs and symptoms, including bloating, flatulence, diarrhoea, constipation, and many others.
Every part of digestion is affected by the stress response.
It’s a physiological reaction to stress that’s virtually impossible to avoid.
And the only way to fix it? Is to manage stress, so that it doesn’t get the better of you, and hence, create such signs and symptoms.
6 years ago, when I had chronic adrenal fatigue, my digestion was the bane of my existence. I had no idea why my digestive system had suddenly ‘turned on me’.
Now, my digestion is perfect – UNLESS I’m quite stressed.
As soon as I’m exposed to a series of ongoing stressors, my digestive signs and symptoms let me know. For this, I’m grateful – because signs and symptoms exist purely to let us know that something needs to change.
Of course, other factors come into play. Nutrition, gut bacteria, inflammation in the digestive tract. As naturopaths, we consider all of these things.
BUT, if you’ve had ongoing problems with your digestion for a long time, I urge you to consider your stress levels.
How well are you coping? Do you notice any patterns with your stress levels (or the busyness of your life), and your digestive symptoms? Do you get a ‘nervous tummy’ when you’re worried or anxious about something?
For those that have untreated adrenal fatigue, digestive difficulties are practically a given. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a client that had some degree of adrenal fatigue / hormonal imbalance, that didn’t have some troubled with their digestion.
I am living proof of how much our digestive capacity can improve when we get our hormones back in balance, and effectively manage our stress levels. I’m not saying it’s the only answer, but, if you’re at your wits end – isn’t it worth a try? I think so.
Does any of this ring true for you?
Please don’t underestimate the HUGE effect that constant stress has upon our entire health picture. If you feel overwhelmed, burnt out, or depleted, then chances are – stress may be getting the better of your wellbeing.
I implore you to address this, and watch your whole health picture change.
Naturopath / Women’s Life Coach // Melbourne, Australia / Skype
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I work as a Naturopath + Life Coach in Melbourne, Australia, and via Skype.
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