How Do You Calm Butterflies In Your Stomach:Stress and Gut-Part 2

How is Stress Linked to Your Gut

The stress response causes a large number of detrimental events in our gut, which include:

  • Decreased absorption of nutrients necessary for the proper cellular processes in our body
  • Decreased oxygenation in our gut cells
  • Significantly deficient blood flow to our digestive system. this leads to impaired metabolism
  • Decreased enzymatic output in our gut – this can be very substantial
  • Affects the “brain-gut-axis”

There is something which is far more important than what people think of the nervous system.

Yoga practice has given a great importance to chakras and especially the Manipur chakra lying around naval region. The Manipur chakra is a very important plexus of sympathetic and parasympathetic components of autonomic nervous system. The breathing system is part of autonomic nervous system that can be under conscious control of human beings. There is one more nervous system (commonly not well known). It is called the enteric nervous system (ENS) or intrinsic nervous system. It is one of the main divisions of the nervous system and consists of a mesh-like system of neurons that governs the function of the gastrointestinal system.It is now usually referred to as separate from the autonomic nervous system since it has its own independent reflex activity.

You are Actually Two Brains Living In One Person

In a very real sense, humans have two brains, one inside our skull and one in our gut. Conventional anatomy experts do not fully appreciate this. Interestingly, these two organs (brain) are actually created out of the same type of tissue. Many a times the second brain is called the abdominal brain. One can notice that the sudden shock causes a pit in stomach.

Yoga science believes that diaphragm divides the body in two parts- one part consisting of Manipur chakra, Swadhishthan (Sacral chakra) and Mooladhar (Root chakra) and other part consisting of Anahat (heart) chakra, Vishuddhi (throat) chakra and Adnya chakra. Crown chakra is the chakra of merging with almighty (Parabhrahma).

During fetal development, one part turns into our central nervous system while the other develops into our enteric nervous system. These two systems are connected via the Vagus nerve, the tenth cranial nerve that runs from our brain stem down to our abdomen. This “brain-gut axis” is what connects our two brains together, and explains why we get butterflies in our stomach when we are nervous, for example

Physical Symptoms of Stress

  • Stiff or tense muscles, especially in the neck and shoulders
  • Headaches
  • Sleep disorders
  • Shakiness and tremors
  • Loss of interest in sex
  • Abnormal weight loss
  • Restlessness

Behavioural Symptoms of Stress

  • Procrastination
  • Grinding teeth
  • Difficulty completing work assignments
  • Excessive consumption of alcohol and/over smoking
  • Desire to withdraw from others
  • Too much talkative
  • Continuous brooding on stressful situations

Emotional Symptoms of Stress

  • Crying silently and or for long durations
  • Overwhelming sense of tension or pressure
  • Trouble relaxing / Nervousness
  • Quick temper
  • Loss of sense of humour
  • Trouble remembering things
  • Indecisiveness

Harvard Reviews on Stomach Disorders

Hippocrates once said that “all diseases begin in the gut,”. This was known to Vedic science much earlier. It is also widely known that stress is a trigger that causes multiple chronic disease processes to occur. These two health dogmas are actually intricately intertwined, as stress is detrimental to our gut health, and together stress and a damaged gut can contribute to multiple inflammatory diseases and conditions, such as:

  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Diabetes
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Lupus
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Chronic skin conditions
  • Kidney and urinary conditions
  • Allergies
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Several degenerative diseas

To put it simply, chronic stress of unknown origin and other negative emotions like extreme anger, deep rooted anxiety, envy and very high level of sadness can trigger symptoms and full-blown disease in our gut. Harvard researchers explain:

“Psychology combines with physical factors to cause pain and other bowel symptoms. Psychosocial factors influence the actual physiology of the gut, as well as symptoms. In other words, stress or depression or other psychological factors can affect movement and contractions of the GI tract, cause inflammation, or make us more susceptible to infection.

In addition, research suggests that some people with functional GI disorders perceive pain more acutely than other people do because their brains do not properly regulate pain signals from the GI tract. Stress can make the existing pain seem even worse.” Interestingly, the connection works both ways, meaning that while stress can cause gut problems, gut problems can also wreak havoc on our emotions. The Harvard researchers continue:

“This connection goes both ways. A troubled intestine can send signals to the brain, just as a troubled brain can send signals to the gut. Therefore, a person’s stomach or intestinal distress can be the cause or the product of anxiety, stress, or depression. That’s because the brain and the gastrointestinal (GI) system are intimately connected — so intimately that they should be viewed as one system.”

Major effects of stress on gut physiology

  1. Alterations in gastrointestinal motility
  2. Increase in visceral perception
  3. Changes in gastrointestinal secretion
  4. Negative effects on regenerative capacity of gastrointestinal mucosa and mucosal blood flow
  5. Negative effects on intestinal micro flora

Mast cells (MC) are important effectors of brain-gut axis that translate the stress signals into the release of a wide range of neurotransmitters and pro-inflammatory cytokines, which may profoundly affect the gastrointestinal physiology.

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