Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the great German writer and philosopher, believed that the gut was the center of all human emotions. Perhaps this is why we use phrases like “gut feeling,” “gut reaction” or “butterflies in my stomach.” Some experts refer to the digestive system as a “second brain.” This is an accurate analogy because the stomach and intestines have more nerve cells than the entire spinal cord. In fact, 95 percent of the body’s serotonin, the hormone that controls mood, is found in the digestive system.
One emotion that has a significant impact on digestion is stress. April is Stress Awareness Month, so let’s become familiar with four digestive manifestations of stress:
Your doctor may use fancy words like “functional dyspepsia,” but you know it as indigestion. Common symptoms of indigestion are stomach aches, stomach growls, belching, bloating, nausea, and sometimes even vomiting. Symptoms usually subside when you relax, but they return and are exacerbated when stress returns.
Some people suffer from heartburn because their stomach produces too much stomach acid, but stress can also cause that familiar burn. Speculation is that stress can amp up the stomach’s production of acid or even make the esophagus especially sensitive to pain. One study in Psychosomatic Medicine found that heartburn sufferers who had gone through a major event were more likely to develop severe heartburn within four months.
Ulcers develop from a bacterial infection, but some scientists believe that stress may be the catalyst that helps the infection take hold. The stomach’s balance of hydrochloric acid and protective secretions is extremely delicate, and if it is disrupted, it could be susceptible to ulcers.
Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease
These two conditions are known as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which is defined as inflammation of the digestive tract. Common symptoms of IBD are diarrhea, pain, fatigue, and weight loss. Although ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease are not caused by stress, a stressful situation or feeling chronically stressed can make symptoms worse (Source: Consumer HealthDay).
If you are experiencing any of these digestive conditions, you should make an appointment with your doctor during Stress Awareness Month. Waiting for a condition to go away on its own could mean that you are doing damage to your digestive system. Get relief today by scheduling a visit. When you go in, begin by explaining your symptoms as well as any life changes or stressful situations that you may be experiencing. Those could be the key components to correctly diagnosing your issue and getting you the treatment you need.