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HOW STRESS IS MESSING WITH YOUR DIGESTION - AND WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT by Michelle Cordeiro, CNP

 How much is stress contributing to your digestive woes? 

How much is stress contributing to your digestive woes? 

Oh hello there. If we haven’t met, I’m Michelle! A Holistic Nutritionist from Hamilton who is no stranger to funky digestive issues LET. ME. TELL. YOU.

And I’m going to paint you a picture and maybe you can relate, because this was my story for YEARS.

You’re bloated (oh yes).

You’re gassy (are you ever).

But you're trying to eat well (isn't that frustrating!?)

Now what if I told you that this could have less to do with what you’re eating and more to do with how stressed out you are while eating...

Let’s talk it out.

Picture having your favourite meal in front of you while you’re propped up on the couch watching Game of Thrones (and if you don’t watch G.O.T, think “on the edge of your seat, freaking out, screaming at the TV” kind of situation going on). You. Are. Stressed. Out. And you’re barely looking at your food as you gulp it down in a stressed blackout.

Besides the obvious issue of not enjoying your food, there is an even worse chemical reaction (or lack thereof) going on.

When you're stressed, that’s all your body can focus on. Your sympathetic nervous system ensures that only the bodily functions that are absolutely necessary are utilized to their fullest. You become more alert, your adrenaline starts pumping and you are ready to utilize any quick energy sources your body has to offer - which does not include the slow and calculated process of digestion!

Being stressed out (deadlines, TV, traffic, kiddies, anxiety, news updates…whatever it may be that day) puts your body into immediate survival mode, pumping blood to allow you to run faster and produce enough stress hormones to deal with whatever’s going on; in your body’s opinion, digestion can wait.

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Stress even has the power to reduce the amount of stomach acid being produced which causes the food to stay in your stomach longer than it should, resulting in fermentation in your gut. Fermentation that creates gas which makes you bloated, makes you burpy and can result in acid reflux (the worst!).

This is such a common story and so important to realize so you can focus on decreasing your stress especially around meal times. This doesn’t have to be a huge change either, just stay mindful!

Take a few deep breaths.

Just take a moment before eating to appreciate what you're about to eat. Give yourself some love for taking the time to make this food (or making the incredible choice if you're ordering out!). Appreciate the fact that you have access to this beautiful meal and nourishment. Appreciate whoever it is that you're sharing this meal with (human, pet or house plant) and give your body some time to prepare for this meal. Not only will this help your digestion but I promise your food will even taste better!

Put down the cell phone.

Whether it's answering texts, emails or being available for phone calls, this is stressful. Being available through your phone at all times is stressful. Leave it aside. Don't scroll through Instagram mindlessly, don't feel the need to respond right away, just let whatever you can deal with later, be dealt with later. I always think about my family growing up and letting the landline ring if we were eating dinner. When you eat, let that landline ring!

Turn off Game of Thrones.

Or whatever show it is that you're binge watching right now. Even if it's not the most stressful show in the world, watching it is still taking your attention and focus away from the food you're about to devour. Limiting the distractions is important, and especially if those distractions make your blood boil and your heart race for Shaggy Dog (last reference, I swear).

Chew your food until it’s absolute mush.

Okay this is kind of a weird one to get used to and you might look a little crazy, BUT TRY IT! Have you ever seen a WHOLE KERNEL OF CORN in your poop!? I have, and it's alarming and a true sign that you aren't chewing enough. And I know this may seem basic but you'd be surprised at how little we chew our food. Keep chewing! It helps break the food down to ease the burden on your digestion and speed up the process. Chew until you can't decipher what's in your mouth anymore. Chew until your food is mush and you think you've chewed enough and then chew some more. Eventually this does become more of a habit and isn't something you'll need to think about. But for now, chew chew and chew some more!

And then focus your attention and energy on the task at hand; eating the heck out of that delicious piece of food and allowing your body to use all it’s wonderful tools of digestion. It makes all the difference.


Reach out and let me know how you do! I love getting all the juicy details in my inbox: movewithguts@gmail.com.