Five Ways to Reduce Stress and Aid Digestive Health

Stress is a reaction to the Fight or Flight Response. It’s all about what your body perceives as threatening. A deadline? Speaking in front of a crowd? A lightning storm? Each of these things could cause the body to react by releasing the hormones adrenaline and cortisol.

While adrenaline is a more familiar hormone, cortisol is often called the “stress hormone”. Cortisol helps to reduce inflammation and affects a variety of bodily functions including your blood sugar, salt and water balance, and blood pressure. Cortisol is what tells your body to initiate fight or flight by signaling a release of adrenaline.

Say you’re hiking through the woods and a bear walks out in front of you. Your heart starts thumping as cortisone and adrenaline are released into your body. Now, suppose the bear decides you’re not very interesting and continues on its way into the woods. Now what? In normal circumstances, your body would return to its normal levels. However, many people suffer from chronic stress. Their body is constantly preparing to run away. According to a study completed by doctors at the Teaching Hospital of the University Jena, Germany and the Jagiellonian University Medical College Cracow, Poland, the gut is particularly susceptible to both psychological and physiological stressors. This can either lead to or aggravate a variety of health problems. Among those are digestion issues like Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Crohn’s Disease, and ulcers. In light of Stress Awareness Month, here are five ways to combat stress and therefore maintain your digestive health.

Exercise

Exercise methods such as yoga and pilates are excellent ways to escape a stressful day. A study by the American Psychological Association shows that 53% of adults and teens felt better about themselves after exercise. Try taking a walk with a friend or an early jog before the day begins. The Mayo Clinic explains that exercise will increase endorphins, improve your mood, help you sleep better, and ultimately contribute vastly to your overall energy.

Psychotherapy

What might a therapist have to do with your digestion? Quite a lot says Harvard Medical School, which recommends several forms of psychotherapy proven to help alleviate stress-related digestive problems. Talk therapy, Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), relaxation therapy, and even hypnosis are all methods to help identify and address the causes of stress in your life.

Have a sense of humor

As a Mayo Clinic article says: laughter really can be the best medicine. It’s no joke! Making an effort to look on the bright side and keep your life positive is a great way to alleviate stressors. Be mindful of your actions and know when some things simply aren’t worth stressing over. Find the humor in the situation rather than the fear or anxiety.

Sleep smarter

The ADAA reports that eight out of ten adults experiences difficulty sleeping. Are you one of them? It is proven that the less sleep you get the more stressed you will be. It pays to make an effort to get a good night’s sleep. When it’s time to turn off the light, leave your worries at the door. Make your bedroom a screen-free zone—particularly for children and teenagers.

Create a balanced schedule

Especially at work, be intentional in your tasks. According to an article by University of Massachusetts, Lowell, occupational stress is a rampant contributor unhealthy lifestyles. Cleveland Clinic has several suggestions on maintaining health at work. Never underestimate the power of taking a deep breath. Take a walking meeting instead of sitting in a conference room. And, of course, as much as you can leave the office at the office.

The Takeaway:

Something as simple as taking a walk everyday could have massive impact on both your physical and mental health. The hard part is committing to make it happen. You alone can choose to make the effort toward a more healthful lifestyle. We hope some of these tips will help you on your way to becoming stress free!