Stress and its negative effects on the digestive system have long been known. Of course most people, even if they do not concern themselves with the finer details, are already aware of this. A quick trip to the dentist or an important job interview is usually enough to stress us out at least to the point we get ‘butterflies’ in the stomach and convince us that anxiety and the gut are inextricably intertwined.
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Although there are many stress factors which negatively impact our digestive system, one issue which is attracting increasing attention is that of the enteric nervous system. This is the third arm of the autonomic nervous system which is becoming known as the second brain. Although many of us are used to hearing about the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, we now know that the gut has a system of its own which is completely outside of our conscious control and which is also highly sensitive to stress. This is the system which, if we get scared or upset, can send us running for the nearest restroom, so never doubt the impact stress can have on our ‘second brain!’
I have done video series of how stress and candida are connected which you can watch here:
What we also know is that different stressors impact the digestive tract and can either trigger a Candida overgrowth or ensure that it remains established, so here are a few tips to keep your digestive tract in good condition and help eliminate yeast and bacterial overgrowth:
1. Eating with Urgency
Rushing your food is detrimental to your digestive system. Really! When you eat more slowly your body has time to release the enzymes, acids and alkali it needs to properly digest your food. When you rush, it doesn’t. It’s as simple as that.
2. Eating When Stressed
Did you know that way back in the 1800s it was proven that when you are in a negative mood you produce less stomach acid and your food only partially degrades? When this happens the remaining food doesn’t digest, but it sits around fermenting which causes a build up of gases, indigestion and stomach discomfort. There is a lot to be said for a family sitting around a table having a happy and relaxed meal, and not just from a social perspective.
3. Skipping Breakfast
Many people skip breakfast simply because they are too rushed to eat. When they do have time, often they will choose a quick bowl of cereal rather than something more substantial. Cereals are loaded with sugar and Candida just love that early morning snack! When you eat nothing at all your digestive system becomes disrupted and often you will find that even though you’ve had little or nothing to eat, you won’t feel hungry again until you finish work. Have breakfast and lay off the sugary cereals,
4. Eating Late
When we eat shortly before going to bed our digestive system is overloaded. This is bad news and particularly if you are already prone to indigestion. Your digestive system, just like the rest of your body, needs time to rest and recover, or rest and digest as it is more often known. Try to have your last meal at least 2 or 3 hours before bedtime to allow it to leave the stomach and move on to the intestines.
Tea, coffee and many sodas are stimulating drinks which can shift the motility of the digestive tract. This means that because it is filled with nerves then by constantly making these nerves react we are altering the movement of the gut. Also, because they are being stimulated when we have no real physical requirement, we end up in a cycle of fatigue and stimulation and it becomes a lose-lose situation for the gut. So cut back those stimulants and drink when you are thirsty rather than out of habit.
6. Eating at Your Desk
Although there isn’t much you can do about a fast paced work environment, if you must sit at your desk and eat, then do just that. Don’t be typing or writing or talking on the phone and grabbing a bite of sandwich when you can. Sit back, and, if you must, read, but take that time out to let your digestive system know the food is coming and eat it as slowly as possible.
Rest and digest is what the enteric nervous system is all about. Although all the talk about relaxation classes and techniques might, at one time, have seemed slightly ‘faddy,’ they actually have a good foundation in fact. No, they aren’t going to put all your digestive issues right, but they are going to teach you how to relax and your digestion will improve along side it. Think about taking Tai Chi or even learning some breathing techniques you can do at home. Or, if you feel stressed, then why not go for a stroll. It’s amazing what a change of environment can do.
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Your enteric nervous system cannot be fooled. Even if you try to appear outwardly relaxed, but you really aren’t, then you can guarantee your gut won’t be working at an optimum level – and when it isn’t, then the motility, acids, alkali and enzymes are not working properly either. This allows overgrowths of bacteria and yeasts to maintain a foothold and stay put.
If you take away one message from this article it really must be: Take care of your digestive system and it will certainly take care of you.