How Stress Affects Digestion and Immunity
Usually when experiencing stress, it will first manifest in your digestion; though in some cases, the effect will be too subtle to notice. The body’s stress response is our first line of defence – a highly systematic mechanism embedded into the rest of our system. Our digestive system can handle over 25 tons of food for a lifetime and this is indeed a lot! Thus, it is very important to consider its ability to perform efficiently in order to maintain optimum health.
The digestive system is an incredible machine that performs different complex processes to break down food and transform them into fuel and nourishment for the body. Digestion starts the moment you think about a specific food. It is then stimulated by the tasty aroma that triggers production of body chemicals, which initiate the digestion process.
The digestive tract begins at the oral cavity and ends at the anus. Such long tube is layered with delicate linings and muscles that massage and break down the food so that only essential nutrients can be absorbed and used up by the body.
Maintaining the integrity of these intricate layers is very important to achieve and maintain health and vitality. We usually feel symptoms such as fatigue, lack of focus and motivation and joint pain, which are obviously not related to your digestion or diet but surprisingly, these symptoms can denote issues that originated from your gut.
How Stress Causes Indigestion
Your digestive system, which includes the stomach, pancreas, liver, gallbladder, small and large intestine are the main organs involved in the process of digestion. If you add stress, emotions and balance into the mix, it will affect digestive function. Say, there’s one glitch in this complex system, expect a cascade of problems that will occur. And, if your digestive system is not in good shape, it will fail to absorb the ‘essentials’ that you need.
Have you ever experienced feeling a sudden abdominal pain when confronted with a stressful situation? Because the nervous system is closely connected to our digestive tract (via the parasympathetic system), it is not surprising to experience an upset stomach when we are stressed.
We have always been told that indigestion symptoms such as belching, bloating and burning are because of too much gastric acid. But it turns out that the opposite is also true. Studies have found that low gastric acid production can cause the same acid indigestion as too much acid.
On top of that, the antacids we often take for relief actually reduce the production of gastric acid by slowing down the body’s natural HCl production. Because they alkalize your stomach, it stimulates the release of more Hydrochloric acid (HCl), which then requires taking even more antacids to inhibit production. If we look into the problem with a deeper lens, we can say that the indigestion is not really treated but only palliated and the relief is short-lived, only when the production of hydrochloric acid is blocked.
When eating, make sure you sit down comfortably and chew the food well. Do not drink too much water with your meals because this will dilute the gastric juices. Another thing to note – cold water can put out the digestive fire by causing the stomach to contract. To stimulate production of HCl, take apple cider vinegar or bitters prior to your meal. You can supplement it with HCl capsules (Bentane) after meal.