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Stress - How It Can Affect Your Digestive System?

Written and reviewed by
Dr. Bharat Kumar Nara 93% (107 ratings)
MBBS, M.S (Gen Surg), M.Ch ( Surgical Gastro)
Gastroenterologist, Hyderabad  •  17 years experience
Stress - How It Can Affect Your Digestive System?

I am so stressed”, how many times do we say or hear the people around us say so. In this the 21st century, it has almost become a normal thing to be stressed. Physiologically stress can be defined as the mental or emotional anxiety that is caused by circumstances that are demanding which can be work, relationships or day to day activities. The more stressed a person is, the more it affects their lives both physically and emotionally. These effects can range from high blood pressure to reduced functioning of the immune system and problems in the gastro intestine. In this article we are going to focus on how stress affects gastroenterology.

What is gastroenterology?
Gastroenterology can be described as the branch of medicine which focuses on the digestive system and its disorders. Two of common digestive disorders or diseases are gastrointestinal cancer and gastrointestinal bleeding. They are usually diagnosed through tests such as a stool test or endoscopy, just to mention a few, and treated by specialists referred to as gastroenterologists

Gastrointestinal diseases caused by stress are:

  1. Constipation
  2. Irritable Bowel syndrome
  3. Structural disorders i.e. cancer and diverticular disease
  4. Anal disorders i.e. hemorrhoids, fistula and anal fissures
  5. Colon polyps

These are some of the common problems one experiences when in constant stress. With constipation and bowel irritation everything seems to be normal but the digestive system does not function properly. The more stressed a person is, the more severeis the dysfunction. One common symptom with digestive disorders is pain. The diseases may start out mild and become chronic over time. It can simply begin with a simple alteration of your normal bowel movements.

How stress affects gastroenterology
According to Kenneth Koth an MD, Professor of medicine “stress can affect every part of the digestive system”. The question is, how? The enteric nervous system which is composed of hundreds of nerves, used to communicate with the central nervous system, is what controls the digestive system. When one is stressed they are in a flight mode, which is communicated to your central nervous system which may shut down the flow of blood and consequentially affects your digestive system leading to disorders as well as triggering other diseases such as ulcers.

Keeping stress under control
By reducing stress one is able to control the negative effects it has on gastroenterology. Stress is easily relieved by lifestyle changes involving proper diet and exercise. Exercise and relaxation reduce tension and stimulate the brain to release endorphins which are chemicals that help in reducing stress and boosts or enhances one’s mood.

Stress is mostly unavoidable and each person has to make a personal choice not to be constantly stressed in order to avoid digestive disorders and lead a health life. In case you have a concern or query you can always consult an expert & get answers to your questions!

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