Stress Part 3: Tummy Troubles
Today I’ll be talking about how stress can lead to an unhappy gut. Have you ever found that when you’re on vacation your tummy troubles improve? There you are eating all the things that normally upset your gut and yet you don’t have any issues. This is a common finding for people who have gut issues that are worsened by stress.
Scientists believe stress can alter the “brain-gut axis”. In other words, psychological stress can influence your gut in many ways. It can impact your gut bacteria, the way your gut moves, inflammation in the gut and more. Read on to learn about how stress can impact gut health.
IRRITABLE BOWEL SYNDROME (IBS) AND SMALL INTESTINAL BACTERIAL OVERGROWTH (SIBO)
Study after study shows a connection between stress and IBS. When treating IBS or SIBO it’s important to focus on food intolerances and gut bacteria. However, too often stress management is ignored. Patients who focus on reducing stress are able to improve their symptoms much faster.
CROHN’S DISEASE AND ULCERATIVE COLITIS
Some studies suggest that stress can cause or worsen Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Not all studies show this link so more research is needed to confirm this theory. It’s thought that stress can increase inflammation and oxidation in the gut. This can trigger these two inflammatory conditions.
GASTROESOPHAGEAL REFLUX DISEASE (GERD – A.K.A. HEARTBURN)
In a healthy gut, the connection between the esophagus and the stomach is held closed most of the time by a valve. This valve is called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). Stress may weaken the LES. This makes it easier for acid from the stomach to splash up into the esophagus. Once acid is in the esophagus you feel that heartburn sensation. Stress also makes you more sensitive to any acid splashing up into your esophagus. This makes the experience more uncomfortable.
It’s been long known that ulcers are most commonly caused by bacteria called H. Pylori. But that does not mean that the connection between stress and gut ulcers is a myth. Stress can reduce your body’s protection mechanisms against H. Pylori or other agents that harm the stomach lining. Stress may also make it harder for ulcers to heal.
It’s not easy to live with abdominal discomfort. If you feel like you need some help managing your tummy troubles and your stress levels book an appointment or free 15 minute consult.
Dr. Samantha Dass is currently a naturopathic doctor working at Holland Landing Health Centre in East Gwillimbury, Ontario, which services Holland Landing, Newmarket, Aurora, Keswick and Bradford areas. If you are interested in naturopathic services please contact Holland Landing Health Centre at 905-853-7900 or via e-mail at [email protected].