Stress and Digestion

Stress and Digestion

The connection between stress and digestion seems obvious to most people. After all, it is normal to feel your experiences with your gut. This means that many people who struggle with stress, also struggle with gastrointestinal problems.

From an Ayurvedic perspective, you try to get to the root of the problem. Stress means you are out of alignment with the natural rhythm. Trying to understand what is going on between stress and digestion may give you a new perspective.

Stress and Gastrointestinal Problems

The first step on your journey to better understand your gastrointestinal problems is to get to know your physiognomy. So just start by feeling it. Allow yourself a longer exhale, long enough for you to squeeze your abdominals to your colon and small intestines. Can you feel that?

You need to trust your body and learn how to feel your organs. You’ve got a mouth and a tongue, if you swallow it goes down your throat and into your stomach. It is possible you can feel where your stomach becomes your intestines. If you continue to exhale completely you can feel your abs massage your large intestine. You can even squeeze your anus. See that? You just felt your entire gastrointestinal tract.

In Ayurveda it’s called Mahavahasrota. Maha means great, Vaha means carrying and Srota means channel. In other words, great carrying channel. The gastrointestinal system, like other in your body, is a channel. It is possible, if there is a problem, that you have stored data or dulled energy that you are releasing from subtle to physical. As you start breathing deeper, your digestion improves because you are using your abs to massage your intestine and that helps absorption.

The biggest issue with stress is that being stressed usually leads to bad decisions. If you don’t make smart choices about what comes into your body when you are stressed, then you will definitely pay the price. There is a direct correlation between the choices you make and a pattern that is going towards health or diseases.

It is, however, important to say that not all stress is negative. Some stress, like the stress caused by exercise or intermittent fasting, is positive. But let’s look at some of the digestive problems caused by negative stress.

Stress and Stomach Pain

If you heard about Ayurveda, you probably know about Doshas. Think of Doshas as superpowers, a trilogy of the one universal energy. You have Kapha ruling the stomach, which is anabolic. Pitta, which is metabolic, it digests and transforms. And lastly,the force of Vata, which is catabolic, it breaks things down. So accordingly, Kapha is connected to the stomach, Pitta to the small intestine and Vata to the large intestine.

The Doshas show up in the body when they are in excess, otherwise you don’t feel their symptoms. So when there is stomach pain, what is happening in the stomach with the forces? Kapha, the force connected to the stomach, is the force of mucus. Pitta is the force of bile. And Vata the force of wind.

When people complain about stomach pain, sometimes they mean the intestines as well and not just the stomach. Pain is usually associated with a lack of flow. Breathing has an important role here. If you are not exhaling completely, your body’s energetic channel gets essentially backed up. Because you are not fully getting to the floor before rising up, a new floor is created.

The result, overtime, is that you don’t have enough digestive fire to digest your food. Whenever your digestion slows down or shuts down, pressure builds up. This pressure build up ends up causing you pain.

From an Ayurvedic perspective, there is another reason why stress might be causing our stomach pain. It may be an excess of bile, meaning excess metabolism. This happens when the force of transformation, which is bile, becomes so hot and acidic, that it starts to eat through the stomach or intestinal lining. That’s when ulcers happen.

Making Better Choices

Expect gastrointestinal issues if you are not living in alignment with the way your intuition is trying to guide you. If you are unhappy and don’t know how to change it, the first place where it manifests physically and emotionally is in the gastrointestinal system. When you are aligned, when you follow your intuition, you make better choices. But when you are stressed you are disconnected and stress causes confusion. So take a few deep breaths before deciding what to eat.

There are simple habits you can cultivate to help. For example, start eating an earlier or lighter dinner, eating too much at the end of the day stresses you out. Habit number two is going to bed early. And habit number three is hydrating and pooping within an hour of waking up. These habits enable you to absorb your food deeply. It is important to eat the right food, but it is also important to absorb it fully.

If we look at stress as being against the rhythm of what you want to do, then you realize how important it is to look at the root of stress. If your day to day life is not aligned with who you want to be and where you want to go, then you are going to have stress. Because you are living against your intuition. Understanding the root is imperative to dealing with your digestive issues.

Cate Stillman
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