All of your feelings create physiological changes, and stress is no exception. While under stress, your heart rate can go up, your blood pressure may rise, and blood is shunted away from your midsection, going to your arms, legs, and head for quick thinking, fighting, or fleeing.
This is meant to be a temporary response to help with survival, but when stress becomes chronic, as it is the case for millions of people reading this, it can pull the rug out from beneath your health, wreaking havoc on your gut and digestive health.
How Stress Impacts Your Gut:
The stress response causes a number of detrimental events in your gut, including:
- Decreased nutrient absorption
- Decreased oxygenation to your gut
- As much as four times less blood flow to your digestive system, which leads to decreased metabolism
- Decreased enzymatic output in your gut – as much as 20,000-fold!
But that's not all.
In a very real sense you have two brains, one inside your skull and one in your gut. Interestingly, these two organs are actually created out of the same type of tissue.
During fetal development, one part turns into your central nervous system while the other develops into your enteric nervous system.
These two systems are connected via the vagus nerve, the tenth cranial nerve that runs from your brain stem down to your abdomen.
This "brain-gut axis" is what connects your two brains together, and explains why you get butterflies in your stomach when you're nervous, for example.
Likewise, stress results in alterations of your brain-gut connection, which can contribute to or directly cause numerous gastrointestinal disorders, including:
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