(NaturalNews) We often think of digestion in terms of the food we eat. And while the quality of our food is an important aspect of digestive health, the effect of stress on digestion should not be underestimated. All the raw foods, enzymes and herbal bitters in the world can't help you if your digestive difficulties are caused by stress.
How Stress Impacts Digestion
The typical stress response involves the release of hormones like adrenaline and cortisol from the adrenal glands. The hormones trigger reactions like an accelerated pulse. They also cause changes in the digestive system, like sudden lack of appetite, heartburn, nausea and stomach pains. Stress also causes inflammation throughout the digestive system, which leads to aggravation of the digestive tract and affects the assimilation of nutrients. Over the long term, stress can actually cause chronic digestive problems like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and stomach ulcers.
What You Can Do
Relaxation exercises. These simple routines help you learn to let go of physical tension by methodically relaxing all parts of the body. A simple exercise might include lying in a quiet place and slowly releasing the tension in your body, starting with the face and neck, then moving on to relax the shoulders, back, chest, arms, hands, stomach, legs and feet. Practicing breathing exercises that emphasize the importance of deep, slow breathing can also be very helpful.
Relax before you eat. When you sit down for a meal, instead of digging right in, perform a little relaxation ritual to start your digestion off right. Before you even pick up your fork, take a slow, deep breath and try to release any tension in your muscles. Eat slowly and enjoy your food, chewing it thoroughly and focusing on the nutrients and energy your meal is providing you. Try not to let yourself dwell on stressful thoughts or situations during this time. Simply enjoy your mealtime and allow your body to utilize the nourishment it needs.
Reduce and manage stress. We are often in greater control of our daily stressors than we realize. We cannot always change situations that are causing us stress (though sometimes we can), but we can always choose to deal with them in a way that doesn't damage our health. Read more about dealing with stress in these two articles:
Eat well. Natural, whole foods are the best choice for digestion. Processed, unnatural foods will only cause stress in the body. Choose natural fats, quality proteins and especially fermented probiotic foods like raw sauerkraut, kefir and yogurt to nourish your entire digestive system.
Elizabeth Walling is a freelance writer specializing in health and family nutrition. She is a strong believer in natural living as a way to improve health and prevent modern disease. She enjoys thinking outside of the box and challenging common myths about health and wellness. You can visit her blog to learn more: www.livingthenourishedlife.com/2009/10/welco...