Everyone deals with stressors in their lives, potentially leading to anxiety and — what may come as a surprise — digestive concerns. In fact, stress and stomach issues are not an unusual couple. Recent studies and research suggest a tangible connection between the brain and gut.1 If this is news to you, we're here to help. Read on to learn more about the relationship between anxiety and your gut, along with tips for reducing stress and achieving an overall healthier mind-body connection.
The Brain-Gut Connection
People often underestimate the brain-gut connection. Known as the gut-brain axis, or GBA2, in most scientific circles, this is an interdependent relationship, meaning emotions influence the gut while the intestines and digestive system can also affect emotional states.
People are more familiar with this connection than they may initially understand. For example, have you ever felt "butterflies in your stomach" or experienced something truly "gut-wrenching"? These sayings express the genuine interactions between the brain and the gut.
The relationship between the brain and the gut is chemical.3 Stress hormones can enter your digestive tract, especially with sudden or chronic worry, leading to adverse interactions with gut flora and reducing antibody production.
Common Stress-Related Gut Symptoms
Research shows the brain-gut connection is evident in day-to-day life and can affect movement and cause contractions in the GI tract.4 Psychology, then, inherently affects physiology and can lead to a range of symptoms.
- Loss of appetite
Okay, this next part is a mouthful, but read it carefully. The problem with psychological issues causing physiological discomfort is the physiological condition can eventually result in psychological symptoms.5 This pattern can interfere with daily activities, especially among chronic worriers. Learning how to calm an anxious stomach and mind is essential to improving the brain-gut connection and living a happier and healthier life.
Five Ways To Reduce Your Daily Stress
The primary way to improve the brain-gut relationship is by learning how to reduce common stimuli or typical stressors. Causes of anxiety and stress are unique to each person, so identifying those elements in your life is a personal journey and goal. However, the following five ways to reduce daily stress work for many people.
1. Incorporate Breathing Exercises
Belly breathing is an effective relaxation method when stuck in a stressful situation.6 Sit or lay down with your hand on your stomach. Breathe in deep and slow while counting to four, feel your belly rise. Hold your breath as you count from one to seven, and finally breathe out, counting to eight. Don't stop there! There are more breathing exercises you can try before landing on which one works best for you.
2. Exercise Daily
Routine exercise helps to burn off excess energy and can contribute to reducing feelings of stress or anxiety. The endorphins resulting after a good workout are a definite plus! Believe us when we say working out from home can be fun, especially with a routine that best suits your needs.
3. Only Take on What You Can Handle
It is challenging to say "no," especially to a loved one or an employer, but it is crucial to set and know your limits. If you take on too much, it’s easy to become overwhelmed, which leads to anxiety and stress.
4. Limit Your Screen Time
According to Psychology Today, a growing research pool suggests a link between stress markers and electronic screen media.7 To help improve the balance between brain-gut health, consider cutting back on screens, embracing face-to-face interactions instead.
5. Get More Sleep
The CDC explains at least one in three adults does not get enough sleep.8 The current sleep recommendation for the majority of working adults is between seven and nine hours per night. If you are someone who struggles in this category, there are a few things you can try. Switch your phone out with your favorite book when you get into bed. Practice your breathing exercises. Take a warm bath. The list goes on. Find what works for you and stick with it!
Anxiety can cause stomach and digestion issues, and there are many lifestyle changes you can implement to improve this. Putting an end to your stressors doesn't happen overnight, but stay patient and be good to yourself.