How Stress can affect your digestive health

emotions and digestion: how stress and happiness can affect your digestive health

The link between emotions and digestion has been well documented – how else can you explain that sudden feeling you get when you are scared and you become instantly nauseous?

We constantly use expressions like ‘I have butterflies in my stomach’ because the gastrointestinal tract is sensitive to emotion. Feelings such as anger, anxiety, sadness, and joy all can trigger symptoms in the gut.

Rennie takes a look at how different emotions can trigger different reactions in your digestive system...

How happiness affects your digestion

Many experts have referred to the digestive system as a ‘second brain’ due to its sensitivity to emotions and a major factor in your emotional state are the serotonin levels in your body.   

The complex interaction that exists between the digestive tract and brain is primarily due to the enteric nervous system. Essentially, this refers to the thousands of nerves aligned across the intestines that alert muscles to contract to move food along the digestive tract. 

Similar to the one in your head, your gut's ‘brain’ relies on neurotransmitters such as serotonin – popularly known as the feel-good chemical – to maintain its wellbeing.

 A deficit of serotonin can lead to depression so the levels must be sustained in order to maintain a healthy digestive system. 

How stress and anger affects your digestion

The intimate connection between the digestive system and brain is never more clearly evident than when you may feel intestinal pain during times of stress

We seem to underestimate the extent to which psychology has an effect on our bodies, when biologically it is the combination of physical elements and psychology that cause pain and other bowel indicators.

Studies have shown that prolonged exposure to stress can lead to the development of several gastrointestinal diseases such as peptic ulcer disease, irritable bowel syndrome and food allergies.

Stress may seem like a purely psychological issue but it can manifest itself in many physiological ways. Ensuring you are able to relax and unwind is vital in maintaining healthy digestion.

Rennie has explored some of the best ways to de-stress in this blog post

Grapes apples and flowers

Symptoms of stress

Could stress be a contributing factor to your heartburn or digestive issues? Here are some common symptoms of stress that you should discuss with your doctor:

Physical Symptoms  

  • Weight loss or gain
  • Headaches
  • Sleep Problems
  • Restlessness
  • Change in Sleep Pattern

Behavioural Symptoms

  • Changes in food or alcohol consumption
  • Increased desire to be alone
  • Frequently thinking and talking about stressful situations
  • Taking up bad habits such as smoking or practicing such habits more than usual
  • Difficulty in concentrating

Emotional Symptoms

  • Crying
  • Depression
  • Short temperedness
  • Nervous Behaviour
  • Temporary Loss of memory

These symptoms are not an exhaustive list and people suffering from stress may display a wide range of symptoms – which is why it’s important to discuss concerns you may have about your digestion or mental health with your doctor.  

  • Breakfasts on the go: simple and healthy recipes and ideas
  • Is there a difference between acid reflux and indigestion?
  • Tips to combat stress
  • Heartburn triggers
Three healthy breakfast juices made with fruit and vegetables

Breakfasts on the go: simple and healthy recipes and ideas

Breakfast is widely regarded as the most important meal of the day - but many of us skip it because we'd rather push the snooze button and have an extra five minutes in bed.

However, just because your morning routine is more rushed than relaxed, doesn’t mean you can’t have a healthy breakfast.

Rennie Peppermint takes a look at the best breakfasts you can prepare in a flash and grab as you run out the door to catch your bus…

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Woman holding painful chest in reaction heartburn

Is there a difference between acid reflux and indigestion?

Quite often, the terms acid reflux and indigestion are used interchangeably without fully understanding the differences between the two.

There are in fact a number of differences between the two as indigestion is not, as many believe, just a milder form of acid reflux.

Rennie have taken the time to look into the two issues, and have put together this guide to allow you to understand the differences for yourself.

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Young couple walking together in the sun

Tips to combat stress

Stress can be a major contributor to heartburn or indigestion – which is all the more reason to adopt healthy ways of dealing with stress.

Thankfully, finding new ways to cope and relax doesn’t have to involve spending large amounts of time or money, there are plenty of things you can start doing today to relieve the stress in your life.

Rennie takes a look at some of the best things you can do to ease the tension…

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Chillie spice, powder and dried chillies on table

Heartburn triggers

Heartburn is an extremely uncomfortable experience that affects thousands of people across Ireland on a daily basis.

Also known as acid reflux, heartburn is a burning sensation in the chest that occurs as a result of stomach acid rising up into the oesophagus.

Heartburn symptoms can also range from burning in the chest to a sour acidic taste in the back of throat and is often triggered by foods many of us eat on a daily basis.

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