How Anxiety & Tension Stresses your Digestion

Poor digestion has the potential to kick off a slippery slope to other conditions as you are both reducing your potential to transform nutrients to build health, but also lowering the ability to fight disease, infections or toxicity. This can lead to a big gap between the needs of your body and the capability of your digestion to heal, detox and repair the body, so it can really set you back in your ability to be healthy and stay healthy.

What many don’t appreciate is what underpins healthy digestion is a nervous system that is in balance. Your nervous system comprises of your Brain “the mind” & extends through your body to innervate all organs and glands in the body. Therefore when there is imbalance in the mind, such as distorted, unhealthy or stressful perceptions, this creates nervous tension which inhibits the smooth and optimal function of processes in your body, including digestion.

It can also become increasingly hard to feel calm, present and energised, as being anxious or stressed over a prolonged period of time leads to a state of depletion in the body as you move to a more advanced stage of stress associated with exhaustion and burn out.

Even if you do feel like you do have reasonable energy levels, but do have anxiety  or tension & poor digestive function, it is possible your body is more depleted than you think. Often those who over-thinking or are always “on” tend to over-report energy levels as this alertness and vigilance can give you a wired feeling.

How Stress, Anxiety & Nervous Tension Inhibits Digestion

Most people are aware that stress is no bueno for your health, however many don’t fully understand just how much stress disrupts your digestion. Being stressed out or dealing with cumulative stress over time can lead to chronic state in which digestion is suppressed or becomes dysfunctional (i.e., diarrhoea). The main pathway through which this occurs is the nervous system & being in a survival state.

A survival state refers to state in which you can switch off and be present. Anxiety is an excess thinking state and the functioning of excessive thinking is to protect yourself from threat.  People can also live in their head by becoming numb or disconnected, so it is possible it might be more of a low threat perception, rather than a heightened state of excess thinking or threat perception, for that which the person is conscious of.

The nervous system compromises of a “break” and an “accelerator” side. The break side, the para-sympathetic nervous system is essential for rest, digestion, healing and repair in  our body. The accelerator side is the sympathetic nervous system, and this is turned up when we perceive we are under threat or attack and move into a survival state. When under significant life-threatening stress, this is helpful as it mobilises resources away from non-essential functions in the body needed for fighting or fleeing (i.e., survival), such as digestion or reproduction.

Whilst this can be helpful for short term survival, it will not support or build long term health. These biological systems evolved to manage physical life-threatening dangers, however in today’s world, often it is the psychological, emotional and mental threats, which create a state of survival within the mind and body.

Digestive Disorders and Symptoms as a Stress Signal 

Digestive complaints should not be treated as the “norm” although they are very common and many people choose to ignore this part of their health. Your body never lies and often the first sign of stress in the body and mind is our digestive symptom. Digestive symptoms that can signal distress in the mind or body include:

  • Constipation
  • Diarrhoea
  • IBS
  • Reflux
  • Crohn’s
  • Parasites and other infections
  • Bloating
  • Burping, Pain or Gas

Digestive symptoms can let you know if there is repressed stress in your beliefs or perceptions of the past, present or future. In particular, even distorted memories of the past have the power to tone down digestion as your body can be alarmed from ruminating and avoiding any related stress or threats.

Even though these perceived threats are sometimes unseen, unrealistic and not even in the present (i.e., in the past or don’t exist yet in the future), these. threats have the power to tone down digestive power.

Often poor digestion can reflect a person’s resistance to accepting what is, as this relates to themselves, to others and the world. This resistance and rejection of self, and not accepting others, can create unnecessary stress and tension within, where our digestion doesn’t function well and can even move in the wrong direction (E.g., nausea, reflux, vomiting).

The Control Board of Your Digestion: The Nervous System

Unless a person addresses the beginning of this cascade (stress, tension or anxiety), it is unlikely the body can begin to engage the rest and digest side of the body required to meet the increasing requirements of the body to heal and repair digestive processes.

Even if you feel you have down time, this might not be as restful or rejuvenating as it could be for your body if your mind is racing a million miles an hour and you don’t know how to switch off and be present.

In our Kinesiology sessions, the beliefs that we observe to stress digestion include:

  • Fear of letting others down
  • Not feeling good enough
  • Fear of not meeting others expectations
  • Living for others

Sometimes these beliefs create a temporary or “acute” stress and for others, there is a slow burn where over time, there is increasing depletion in the body and mind and an overall reduced ability to be calm & present. Although there can be common drivers across clients, the solution for each client is unique and customised for them since no 2 people and their lives are the same.

For your digestion to function optimally, you need to be mentally & emotionally present. With Kinesiology, you have the opportunity to diffuse stress in the body and the mind by looking at both the cause and consequence of increasing nervous tension which may be causing or exacerbating digestive dysfunction. For example, if we are living in the past and ruminating on what once was, or we live in the future based on worries or anticipated overwhelm, our body can’t tell the difference between what is actually happening in reality or what is imagined (or misperceived) and it is the perception, irrespective of the reality, that flicks the switch off on our digestion.

This means even if you are carrying stress in your body (past or present), no matter how nutritious your diet is or how many supplements you are taking, or how much “detox”, yoga or exercise you do, you are not necessarily absorbing and assimilating all of these consumed nutrients or effectively eliminating toxins in your detoxes, if your nervous system isn’t in balance & you don’t have the energy to power up digestion.

Even if you have identified an infection, toxin or disease that has created digestive concerns for you; to accelerate healing, repair and prevent reoccurrence, it is important to ensure that you also address how and why stress and tension may have contributed to you being susceptible to infection, so that you prevent further symptom expressions in other related health symptoms.

Anxiety Takes Away Energy & Digestive Power

Being nervous and attending to real and imagined threats inside and outside of us is very  expensive for our energy state. When we have depleted energy from attending to these threats, this means that we don’t have the resources to power up digestion and support our body to work optimally.

By doing the work on bringing more and more of your attention to the present moment, by digesting your perceptions of the past, present and future, you have more and more energy available to bring your digestive processes online.

Anxiety can also create excessive activity levels, where you are unable to rest physically (& digest). When this has been “on” for a long period of time (or a lifetime), this can begin to move your body to more advanced stages of stress, known as depletion or exhaustion. This can set up a challenging loop to break as the exhaustion creates poor digestion which creates poor energy.

In situations in which the body is in “break down” and depletion mode, it is greatly important you get ahead of the curve with stress, anxiety and nervous tension, to free up your resources to heal and repair your body.

Stress Signals: Nausea, Bloating, Reflux & IBS

We support many of our clients recover from chronic digestive concerns. There is multiple ways in which digestion is impaired through increased stress and nervous tension, including

  • Reduced gut motility
  • Increased pain
  • Reduced stomach acid
  • Inflammed mucsosal lining
  • Increased immune reactions (food sensitivities & intolerances)
  • Dysfunctional valves

Stress can open the lower esophageal sphincter which allows the acidity that is in the stomach to come up and irritate the esophagus which can lead to very painful reflux (heart burn or GERD) for some.

In addition, overall there is a growing  “disease opportunity” with the increased state of inflammation in the body and the zapping of vitality and our protective forces in the body.

This can lead to a disturbed gut microbiome, which allows overgrowth of particular types of fungus, bacteria or parasites related to conditions including SIBO, Candida and yeast infections in the body.

You will also more susceptible to attack from infections and have an impaired ability to recover, if you don’t address what is dialling down your digestive power consistently.

Amplify Benefits from Healthy Diets and Disciplines

Feeling like you “have” to stick to strict disciplines and diets can create it’s own nervous tension and stress. When you do the work on restoring balance to your body & nervous system through resolving disharmony in the mind (this includes past, present, future, conscious & unconscious), you don’t need to be as restricted or rigid with your diet and other health disciplines.

Another reason to relax is that with a balanced mind and body, you don’t have to be as anxious, paranoid and hyper-vigilant around toxins and inflammatory foods. As you become more and more present, this allow your health to reboot and therefore your detoxification and elimination pathways will work as they are intended to.

Another benefit of rebooting your digestion is that your will also be able to reduce your susceptibility to disease, toxins and infections, which means less doctors visits, sick leave and more time and energy to focussing on living & building health in all areas of your life.

Decode The Signal Of Your Digestive Stress

Poor digestion is really an important feedback system between you and you, to let you know that something needs to change. Using Kinesiology, we can use muscle testing to understand and gain clarity on how and why this is effecting your digestion and what your unique path back to wellness looks like.

Digestion is so critical to optimal function and energy production in your mind and body, that you can’t afford to ignore this signalling system when it starts to work against you.

When digestion isn’t functioning this can effect all parts of our body and life including:

  • Insomnia
  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Fatigue
  • Mood instability
  • Weight gain
  • Supressed immune function
  • Productivity
  • Hyper & Hypo Thyroid
  • Make us more stressed (yes it’s a nasty loop!)

Using Kinesiology, we help clients to unwind the tension and stress that might be toning down their digestive abilities.

If you are frustrated and fed up with your Digestion (or lack of digestion), please get in touch today.

© Rachel Smith & Core Kinesiology & Natural Therapies 2018

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