Ever heard of the brain-gut axis? It’s the constant communication between your brain and your gut and the reason why stress and stressful situations can have a negative impact on your digestive system. Operating like a super-fast fibre optic connection, the vagus nerve that links brain and gut sends information to the brain in under 100 milliseconds. You smell chocolate and your mouth fills with saliva. You get a fright, your stomach churns.
Anxiety and indigestion
Here are four tell-tale signs your stomach may be affected by stress:
1.Hiccups - We get the hiccups when we laugh and we don’t necessarily think of them as being a sign of stress or distress, but hiccups occur if the stomach is too full of air, alcohol or food. Spicy food, sudden changes in temperature and stressful events like public speaking, can trigger them.
2.Nausea and queasiness - When stressed the body tenses. This is a natural reaction to a threat. Adrenalin floods the body. Your muscles are instructed to get ready to run; your stomach and gut are told to shut down. You don’t need valuable energy going to your digestive system. This is an appropriate response to a burglar but an overreaction to a telephone call. Stress causes tummy muscles to tense, hampers blood flow to the stomach and can speed up breathing, which can cause dizziness. Stress can even cause nausea and vomiting.
3.Belching - Belching happens when the body needs to release excess air in the stomach that has built up. We tend to gulp air and swallow more often when stressed.
4.Stomach ache and pain - Stress-induced trapped wind and tense muscles causes bellyache and pain.
So, how best to ease an anxious tum?
The following tips can help to lessen the impact of stress and anxiety on the digestive system.
If you’re prone to hiccupping fits when tense or nervous, try to relax. Breathe slowly and avoid gulps of air, too much food in one go or too many fizzy drinks. A.Vogel’s Avena Calm (£10.50 for 50ml) is useful when the nervous system needs calming quickly.
Chew your food thoroughly - don’t rush. Eating on the run and gobbling food down too quickly can trap air as you swallow. Relax and enjoy your food. Sit up straight and make room for what you’re about to send your tummy.
If nausea is worse after a heavy meal or fatty foods, you may be not breaking down your fats properly. Bitter herbs like Yarrow, Dandelion, Centaury and Melissa can help. They promote digestive secretions like bile, which the liver makes to break down fats and help get the bowel moving.
Have a lie down to release the burps. The oesophagus joins the stomach a little to the left of your middle. Your stomach is on your left side and there is a gentle curve where it meets your gullet. If you lie on your left side - the air can escape more easily.
Relax and breathe slowly. Deep breathing calms the emotions and relaxes tense muscles.
For the symptoms of IBS and acid reflux, try Silicol Gel (£8.29 for 200ml). It lines the digestive system and has the ability to bind to a variety of harmful and toxic substances, including pathogens, and can help reduce symptoms of IBS and heartburn. Drink plenty of water when you take Silicol and do tell your GP if symptoms haven’t cleared up after a few days.