It seems that now more than ever people are suffering from stomach problems. There are diets out there to help with stomach issues, blood tests, flushes, pills, supplements, and more. But for some, the stomach problems just keep on coming. It seems like a common struggle to have gut problems, and though those issues may vary from person to person, they may all have one thing in common: stress.
Stress can wreak havoc on the body in all sorts of ways. According to the Mayo Clinic, stress can manifest itself in the following ways on your body:
- Muscle tension or pain
- Chest pain
- Change in sex drive
- Upset stomach
- Sleep problems
It can also affect your mood in the following ways:
- Lack of motivation and focus
- Irritability or anger
- Sadness or depression
And, it can affect your behavior in these ways:
- Angry outbursts
- Drug or alcohol misuse
- Tobacco use
- Social withdrawl
- Exercising less often
It is important that you take a look at all the possible reasons you may be experiencing bloating to find the culprit, including your stress.
How Stress Can Affect Your Stomach
Studies have been done that show stress can cause your gut (microbiome) to get off-track, which can cause all sorts of problems for the rest of your body. And one of the ways that your body shows its microbiome is off is by bloating.
Oftentimes, when people are under stress, whether acute or chronic, it can manifest itself in the gut.
And when that stress becomes a chronic problem, then cortisol takes over. This means that your body no longer deems digestion a priority, but rather redirects the blood flow away from your gut and into other areas where your body thinks it’s more necessary.
That redirection of blood can cause all kinds of problems in your gut including:
- Slow digestion
- Issues with food breakdown
- Bacteria imbalance
- Gastrointestinal stress
How to Alleviate the Stress
If you’ve narrowed it down and determined that your bloating is due to stress, then you can start working on how to get rid of that stress.
There are a few things you can do.
Chew slowly. This allows your body to get all of the nutrients out of your food and aids with digestion.
Save water for before and after meals. If you’re someone that loves having something to drink while you’re eating, you may want to put a big pause on that. It can cause problems with your digestion and may be causing you to bloat.
Deep belly breathing. Breathing techniques have been shown to help with stress, as they help to activate your body’s sympathetic nervous system. Work deep belly breathing into your everyday life and you may see your bloating decrease.
Digestive enzymes. These supplements can aid your body with digestion.
Probiotics/prebiotics. These can help to get your stomach bacteria back on track and to a good place.
Eat whole foods. Processed foods can cause all sorts of problems for your stomach and for your entire body. So, focus your attention on eating whole foods that are free of processing.
Acupuncture. Some people find that these little needles provide them with great relief from stress. We certainly think it’s worth a try!
Exercise. When we are feeling stressed, hopping on the Pilates machine is a great way to calm down our minds and be present in our workout. Find a workout that helps you to unplug from your stress and plug into that mind-body connection.