Published: 10/08/2015 - Updated: 12/27/2017
Author: MSc. Miriam Reyes
Did you know that an emotional problem could affect your digestion? This happens because the digestive system and the brain are connected.
This connection has become more evident as doctors have started to notice that medication used to treat anxiety, insomnia and stress also exhibit positive effects on digestion.
The brain controls the intestines
The brain controls the intestines and the digestive system via the vagus nerve. There is not believed to be a specific control, however, that links one alteration to affect the other. That’s why some believe that diseases that affect the digestive system also affect the brain, and could create stress, and even headaches. The most obvious connection, however, exists between how the stomach is affected by emotions.
Diseases that affect the digestive system, like colitis, gastritis and abdominal pain, are aggravated by stress, anxiety, or some other type of emotional factor. They also improve when these factors are treated.
The stomach and emotions: mental balance
In recent years, a lot of people have suffered stomach problems, from slow digestion, and different digestive disorders. This has worries several health professionals, and thanks to this observations, several cases have been found to be caused by emotions, more than a physical cause.
Psychoneuroimmunology is precisely the study of the effect that emotions and stress play on different body systems. This includes diseases that could be caused by this influence, and surprisingly the relationship between emotions and disease has become even more apparent.
In light of these findings, diseases are becoming better understood as a reflection of mental health. Currently stress is recognized as the primary cause of different health problems.
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Persons suffering from Alexithymia, a disorder in which the subject is unable to recognize and express his/her own emotions, are more susceptible to digestive problems. In these cases, in which the digestive system is affected by emotions and stress, it’s best to try to fight the cause, not simply treat the symptom.
Reaching mental balance could be a great aid in improving health in general.
How to improve health
It has been suggested that eating a healthy diet leads to good digestion, and therefore, a clearer, more balanced mind.
Likewise, some believe that emotional problems affect digestion. In order to improve health, you need to find mental balance.
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Natural remedies for the mind and digestion
Fortunately, there are several alternatives and natural remedies that you can use to find balance, and thereby eliminate digestive symptoms.
Massage: Helps calm abdominal pain as it stimulates nerve connections. You could choose reflexology or traditional massage on the abdomen, which are especially recommended for slow intestinal movement, constipation. This is not recommendable, however, whenever experiencing abdominal pain or swelling.
Acupuncture or acupressure: These alternatives can help improve digestive symptoms while also promoting relaxation. They are useful in cases of stress adn anxiety.
Reiki: This is a healing practice that manages universal energy that can be channeled through the hands. It is considered to be a good alternative for victims of stress and anxiety, and it is also useful for treating depression and other emotional disorders.
Healthy diet: a balanced diet promotes better digestion. We recommend avoiding processed foods, as these are rich in carbohydrates and unhealthy fats. We also recommend reducing your consumption of fats, avoid fried battered foods, and try to cook your own foods with very little fat. For example, if you’re going to cook your food, grill or steam it.
If you or any of your family members have been lactose intolerant, and you often times experience indigestion and abdominal pain after consuming lactose products, you need to avoid milk and lactose. If you don’t notice any improvement, you may once again introduce them into your diet.
Sleeping well: your body needs to rest. Sleep helps you repair yourself, and a lack of sleep will make you more sensitive to the effects of stress.
Relaxation techniques: breathing exercises can lead to relaxation. This state helps mitigate pain, if you have any. Individuals have also reported benefits with practicing yoga, which is the discipline that accompanies breathing exercises.
Therapy: cognitive-behavioral therapy is key for changing the way you think, and for feeling better. This is perfect whenever the patient demonstrates anxiety and is clearly affected by stress. It also helps to develop adaptive abilities, and to improve relationships.
Revised by: Dra. Loredana Lunadei on 12/27/2017
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