We are going through some unprecedented times at the moment, collectively we are all feeling some level of stress and for some this may have some undesired effects on digestion.
While digestive concerns can be caused by a variety of factors, stress can impact the digestion in a multitude of ways. The part of Nervous system that controls our bodily functions, has two basic settings Sympathetic the ‘fight and flight’ response seen in stress or Parasympathic ‘rest and digest’ in our relaxed state. When we are stressed, we are in a state ‘fight and flight’ this means our body is prioritising it’s energy and resources into responding to this stress, this is great in times of acute stress as it often increases our concentration and alertness to respond to the situation, this becomes an issue when we are in a period of prolonged stress – it is then a form of dis-stress.
As our body priorities some functions, other functions become less of a priority – one of those being the digestive system. In response to stress our body produces less gastric acid, gastric acid (or stomach acid) plays a key role in digestion of proteins, it helps us to activate digestive enzymes so we can break apart and utilise all the nutrients from our food.
If we have low stomach acid, this will cause a slow and poorly functioning digestive system. It will mean food cannot be broken down as well and will often sit in our stomach for longer, this will cause bacteria to build up and food to ferment as it sits longer in our gut, this will then lead to symptoms such as gas, bloating and for some constipation as well.
Finding tools and techniques to manage stress is of significant importance, an easily accessible and helpful tool is often mindfulness and meditation apps you can download onto your phone – we’ve listed our top 4 here.
There are a few easy ways you can support digestive function, it is important that we always eat slowly in a relaxed environment, taking time to chew our food properly (about 20-30 chews before swallowing food), you may also wish to boost your digestive function by having apple cider vinegar or fresh lemon with water before meals – this will help to increase gastric acid and digestive enzymes to improve digestion.
Natalie is an empathetic and caring Clinical Naturopath who creates a relaxed and non-judgemental environment for her clients. She has a special interest in the management of skin conditions and digestive disturbances. She is registered with the National Herbalists Association of Australia (NHAA).