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How to Cut Stress and Soothe Your Stomach

By Sandy Schroeder

If that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach shows up the minute something goes wrong, you know your stomach can be stress headquarters. Others may experience throbbing headaches or serious backaches but your stomach is action center when stress hits.  

When too many deadlines run together, or a major project goes upside down, your stomach reacts and may keep reacting. Whatever the worry, at home or at work, your stomach tracks every detail and only settles down when peace is restored. 

The brain and the gut have ongoing conversations and there are more neurons in the stomach than in the spinal cord. Any crisis can trigger an upset stomach or painful indigestion. 

The central nervous system helps regulate the gut with a system of nerves that line the gastrointestinal tract from the esophagus to the rectum and it is considered a "second brain."  Here's what the system does. 

  • Control release of enzymes to break down food 
  • Regulate swallowing 
  • Categorize food as waste or nutrient 

What Happens When Stress Hits the Stomach 

We all know what stress feels like when we breathe faster and the heart begins to race. At the same time muscles tighten and blood pressure soars. Then the effects show up in the digestive system. 

  • Causing spasms in the esophagus 
  • Creating nausea 
  • Increasing stomach acid and indigestion 
  • Triggering diarrhea or constipation 

Even more serious effects can reduce oxygen and blood flow to the stomach and create inflammation, cramping, or imbalances in gut bacteria. In more serious cases, stress may reduce blood flow and oxygen in the stomach, leading to cramping, inflammation, or an imbalance of gut bacteria. Other disorders can occur 

  • Peptic ulcers 
  • Irritable bowel syndrome 
  • Inflammatory bowel disease 
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease 

Taking control of stress and finding ways to stay calm can make a major difference in your digestive health.

Use yoga to ease tension - Reduce stress, anxiety and depression as you lower blood pressure and heart rate with this soothing mind/body practice. Researchers say three hourly sessions per week can make a difference in stress levels. 

Replace stress with regular exercise - Walk, bike or run daily and get all of the positive feedback as your perspective broadens. The minute I step on the path for my walk I feel my spirit lift and my mind calm down.  

Choose a better diet - Researchers have linked obesity and eating disorders to stress as the appetite gravitates to sweets and fried foods. On the other hand, anxiety can be reduced with natural mood boosts from salmon, almonds and citrus fruits and juices. 

Create a comfortable schedule - Research shows people who manage their time well with productive daily routines become calmer, more focused and more positive. Often as they generate satisfying grooves, they get more done and worry less. 

Meditate to ease stress - Boost your overall resilience and reduce your anxiety  with brief morning and evening meditations that let you pause and let your thoughts flow unchecked. Later your mind may be clearer and you may feel calmer. 

To learn more about your health, wellness and fitness see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Chula Vista, Calif.

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