Intuitively we know that stress impacts digestion. Likely, we have experienced the absence of appetite that accompanies the butterflies in our stomach before something like a big presentation. But, something we don’t often associate with stress is bloating, gas and heartburn. These often have stress as the root cause.
In the short term, stress can cause digestive discomforts. When stress crosses from acute into chronic, these discomforts can morph a diagnoisble digestive disease.
Implementing nutrition strategies when stress reduction isn’t realistic can reduce the severity of these symptoms and the long term impacts of them. Take a look at these 5 simple tips to support digestion during times of stress!
Supporting Digestion During Stressful Periods
1)Eat Cooked Food
Bloating and gas are common symptoms of stress. This is because stress reduces the amount of stomach acid and enzymes the body needs to digest food. Therefore, when we’re under stress taking the path of least resistance when it comes to digestion is key.
Opting for cooked foods over raw foods is advantageous because they require less effort than raw foods to digest. Conversely, Consuming raw foods when were stressed increases the burden on the digestive system, which it’s not equipped to deal with.
Soups and smoothies are great staples in the diet on days when we are feeling a little extra pressure in our lives. They are easy to digest and provide bioavailable nutrients.
While smoothies can contain raw ingredients, the blending makes them essentially pre-digested which reduces the effort needed from our digestive system.
Digestive friendly smoothie ingredients: bananas, berries, mango, cooked and frozen cauliflower or zucchini, chia seeds, hemp hearts, collagen.
Pro Tip: make soup with a base of bone broth for extra digestive benefits.
3) ACV or Bitters
As mentioned, stress affects our ability to digest food by reducing the amount of stomach acid we are able to produce. Stomach acid is essential for breaking down food and ensuring it reaches the intestines in an absorbable form. When stomach acid is low, as in the case with stress bloating and heartburn often occur.
Thankfully, there are ways to ‘manually’ increase stomach acid and subsequently all the digestive enzymes needed for sufficient digestion. Taking diluted apple cider vinegar prompts the release of stomach acid, as does 2ml of bitters directly on the tongue.
4) Pre-meal Mediation
It’s not always possible to remove the stressors in our lives, but we can implement practices that put our body into a less stressed state. Taking a few minutes to shift the body from ‘fight or flight’ (sympathetic state) to ‘rest and digest’ (parasympathetic state) can increase blood flow to the intestines.
Our favourite way is a mini meditation pre-meal.
How to: take a couple minutes, with food in front of you, simply close your eyes and take deep breaths.
Simply doing this for two minutes shifts the physiology in the body away from stress. It helps to increases all digestive functions to help you feel great after you eat and absorb more nutrients.
5) Targeted Supplementation
Adjusting our dietary patterns in times of stress can help reduce bloating, gas and heartburn- but it also helps us to absorb and use the food we are consuming. This leads to greater nutrient status in the body, which is paramount to supporting the body in times of stress.
We can take this a step further, and help the body to reduce its physiological response to stress through supplementation.
We love Rhozvia Digest. It contains Rhodiola Rosiva a herbal adaptogen, that has been used for years and clinically proven to reduce stress. Mentally and physically. In addition, it contains chamomile which is herb used for relaxation, compounding on rhodiolas anti-stress effects. Chamomile has also been traditionally used for digestive aliments.
Simply take one 15 minutes before breakfast and lunch. It has a compounding effect meaning it's not a forever supplement- but a valuable tool to bring the body back into homeostasis!
Short term stress is a normal part of our lives, and on days when we experience this acute stress we can implement these practices to nutritionally support our bodies through the process. When stress shifts from short term into chronic, the effects on digestion compound and we can begin to see digestive conditions present themselves. The good news, depite where we might be on the spectrum reducing stress, and using supportive nutrition practices can begin to heal our digestion.Author: Lisa Kowalyk, CNP, B.Kin