Keeping your digestive system on track can be a delicate balance of several factors. What you eat and drink, how much exercise you get, and how stressed you feel are all parts of the equation that totals good gut health.
As part of the fight-or-flight body response to stress, cortisol is produced when the body is under stress. Cortisol helps your body respond to threats by increasing heart rate, blood pressure and glucose. It also slows other body functions, including digestion, so it makes sense that prolonged stress produces excessive cortisol and can negatively impact your digestive system.
Most people know that taking a break to walk, run, swim, dance or get any form of exercise is a good way to de-stress. Not only does it help you burn off excess cortisol and calm your mind, but it gets all your muscles moving, including your heart, lungs and your digestive tract muscles. Your digestive system needs a bit of a workout too!
Breathing exercises are a great way to stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system and take control over the functions of your body. The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for the fight-or-flight response. The parasympathetic nervous system handles the activities that take place when the body isn’t on high-alert, helping you feel less stressed.
Here’s a breathing exercise to try:
- Choose a number to count to (at least up to three)
- Inhale while counting to that number
- Hold your lungs full of air for that long
- Take that long to exhale
- Hold your breath with your lungs empty for that long
Practicing mindfulness helps you build awareness of your body and can help relieve stress and protect your digestive health. Practices such as yoga, meditation or body scanning can empower you to notice stress sooner and take steps to reduce it.
Not everything works for everybody but you can find the best way to help your body help itself, relieve stress, and allow your digestive system to function well.
Want to learn more about how stress affects your digestive system? Learn more here: Stress and Your Digestive System.
If you are experiencing prolonged digestive problems, talk to your Granite Peaks gastroenterology specialist. They can help you find the solutions to your digestive issues.