Is this making your stomach hurt?
Have you ever experienced stomach problems when you are stressed? You’re not alone. Stress influences your digestive health. Find out why this happens, some symptoms along with it and how to better manage some stress you are feeling.
Why does my stomach hurt?
When the brain is stressed, it releases many hormones that disrupt the digestive system. One of these hormones, CRH (short for corticotropin-releasing hormone), tells the adrenal gland to start making steroids and adrenaline. This is what you often refer to as your “fight or flight.”
It also suppresses appetite or can make you hungry and crave junk food. All of this depends on how your body reacts to these stress hormones.
What is my digestive system doing?
Stress also increases fluid secretion and gut motility. This explains why you may get diarrhea or the frequent urge to urinate during or after a stressful event. During stressful moments you may also have heartburn or abdominal cramps. The worst thing to do during these times is to stress out even more.
How can I reduce stress?
There are plenty of ways you can manage your stress, but the first and most important step is to identify your stressors. Find what is causing your stress and attempt to either remove that from your life or find ways to cope with them.
Paula Carlton, a nurse practitioner at the Aurora Health Center in West Bend, Wis., recommends developing mindfulness strategies through journaling.
“We can discover great correlations between how we feel, what we eat, how we have slept and day-to-day activities by journaling moments or days that our digestive system may seem off. Sometimes doing this daily for anywhere from 3-30 days can be helpful,” Carlton says. “Also keep in mind other influences, such as a menstrual cycle or hormonal influence during that time. That journaling could help us discover triggers and therefore help in reduce, prevent or cope with stress better.”
Tips to De-Stress:
- Have a good laugh: Laughter is a natural stress reliever! It helps lower blood pressure, slow your heart and breathing rate and relax your muscles.
- Observe negative thoughts: Negative thoughts often spiral and can leave us wound up and worrying about worst-case scenarios. Instead, replace negative thoughts with positive ones such as, “I know I handle this.”
- Manage your time: Many of us overestimate the time we have during the day or week to get things done. Try logging your time management for a week and make some adjustments!
- Work out: Grab your favorite pair of running shoes and start working out! Exercise is a well-known stress reliever and can help combat symptoms of stress!
About the Author
health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.