Our brain and gut are more in sync than you may realize. For instance, the very thought of food can cause the stomach to produce digestive juices or the thought of giving a big presentation may cause constipation or uncontrollable bowels.The brain and gut are in constant communication. This direct relationship causes our gastrointestinal system to be sensitive to emotions and reactions such as stress.
When we are stressed, our brain sends signals for chemicals such as adrenaline, serotonin (a hormone that affects mood and is found in the digestive system) as well as the stress hormone cortisol to be released. These hormones can cause adverse reactions.
Stress negatively affects our digestive system in many ways. It can cause a decrease in blood and oxygen flow to the stomach, cramping, an imbalance in gut bacteria and inflammation. These symptoms can further develop into gastro intestinal (GI) disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), irritable bowel disease (IBD), peptic ulcers or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
There are several things you can do to reduce stress and improve gut health. Practicing stress-management techniques such as exercising regularly, avoiding stressors, socializing, getting sufficient sleep or relaxing can greatly minimize your levels of stress.
In addition to practicing stress reduction techniques, you can support your digestive health by drinking less alcoholic beverages or consuming less sugar- as too much sugar can cause an imbalance in the ratio of good and bad bacteria in the stomach. Increasing your intake of foods that promote digestive health such as those rich in probiotics or foods that aid the body in producing digestive enzymes is also helpful.
The gut is often referred to as “the second brain” of the body. If you are experiencing consistent complications of the digestive system, your body is probably trying to tell you that there may be a bigger problem. Make an appointment with a gastroenterologist who specializes in the treatment of gastrointestinal, liver, and pancreatic disorders to examine your symptoms.
Jamaica Hospital’s Division of Gastroenterology consists of board-certified gastroenterologists who provide high quality and expert care to patients who suffer from such conditions in both inpatient and outpatient settings. To schedule an appointment, please call 718 206 6742 or 718 206 7001.