STRESS and Your Stomach

The discomfort you feel registers in your brain as more stress. The more stress the brain feels, the more hormones and chemicals it releases. It’s a vicious cycle of stress and discomfort.

The Body’s Response

Your gastrointestinal tract-your stomach and intestines-may respond to stress by slowing down, speeding up, going into spasms or secreting more acid.

What About Ulcers?

While ulcers are now known to be caused by bacteria, not stress, stress may make the body less resistant to the ulcer-causing germs. Incidentally, it’s not high-powered executives, but those in low-status jobs who are most prone to ulcers- people with many demands made on them and little control over their work.

Typical Stress Symptoms

Many of these stress-related complaints are lumped together under the diagnosis, “non-ulcer dyspepsia,” or NUD. The symptoms may range from bloating to nausea and pain. Usually there is an uncomfortable feeling of fullness during or soon after eating. Symptoms of NUD can be treated with over-the-counter or prescription stomach remedies, but learning to get stress under control is the best way to overcome NUD. other stress-related gastrointestinal symptoms include:

  • heartburn, caused by stomach acid washing up into your esophagus;
  • irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, in which there may be bouts of painful muscle spasms, diarrhea and constipation,
  • and bloating as a result of air swallowing, a common response to stress.

Take Action

Of course, any stomach symptoms could mean there is a serious underlying disease. Get a medical examination for any digestive condition that persists. If no underlying problem is found, chances are you could benefit from reducing stress in your life. Yoga, meditation, deep breathing and progressive relaxation exercises are all known to help circumvent the body’s stress reaction.

Your stomach has a hotline to your brain. When you get upset, nerves that go directly from your brain’s emotion centers to your digestive tract send messages to deluge the intestinal area with neurotransmitters and hormones. Your stomach may respond in a variety of ways ranging from the familiar “knot in the stomach” to more subtle and long-lasting forms of distress.

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