Why stress screws with digestion
We’re always being told that stress ravages our health. It causes cortisol levels to rise, adds pressure to your adrenals, hinders your immune system, messes with your hormones and keeps your mind separated from your body. But the one health/stress association we hear little about is the fact that stress puts an end to digestion. When we experience stressful situations, our bodies are unable to absorb any nutrients from our food. So, it doesn’t matter how much good food you eat, if you live a highly-strung lifestyle, all of the brown rice and broccoli in the world will do you little good at all. And without adequate nutrition, your body is unable to heal, thrive and survive.
I had known about the importance of eating in a relaxed environment in order to allow food to be absorbed efficiently, but it wasn’t until I read Suzanne Somers’ interview with Dr Nicholas Gonzalez in her best-selling book, Knockout, that it made such complete sense. Dr Gonzales explains how the two branches of the autonomic nervous system play such crucial roles in our healing process. He says that our sympathetic nervous system’s job is to help our body deal with stress by diverting blood to the brain and the muscles. This is so that in times of stress we can think quickly and our muscles can react quickly. Sympathetic nerves divert energy away from the gut to the brain and muscles. While this is happening our entire digestive system is shut down.
The parasympathetic system works in the opposite way, taking advantage of our restful state at night when we are sleeping to repair and rebuild our bodies. The parasympathetic system is responsible for digestion and increases the efficiency of digestion and secretion of hydrochloric acid, enzymes from the pancreas, and the bile salts from the liver. Dr Gonzales says that this system increases the absorption of nutrients, stimulates the repair of damaged tissues, and is basically a reparative system.
So what does this all mean for us? First of all it is proof that the majority of our healing happens when we are sleeping, which is why it is so uber important to get enough quality sleep each night. It also means that if you are constantly under stress, all of your energy will constantly be diverted away from your gut and your digestive system won’t ever be given the chance to perform it’s super important task of absorbing life-giving nutrients from your food.
If you’re the type who burns the candle at both ends, survives on little sleep and runs on adrenaline, stress and caffeine during the day, your health is most likely on the decline. Just something to think about next time you find yourself sacrificing your wellbeing for things like work, party and other superficial pursuits.
If you are a bit of a chronic stress head, you may benefit from reading my post called ‘How Often Do You Just Stop And Do Nothing?‘ – it has some great tips for injecting ‘nothing’ into your day.
Did you know this about your digestive system? Do you think you have chronic unmanaged stress levels?
Positive affirmation for the day: I accept full responsibility for everything about my life.
join the tribe
Join the green mo revolution! Subscribe to get Jess's updates & Green Mo Revolution e-book FREE with over 80 green smoothie recipes!