Yesterday, I read this awesome article done by the Harvard Health blog about the gut-brain connection. I was so excited to find an article about this topic because I have been wondering ever since I was diagnosed if there was a connection. Having IBD has made me much more conscious about what is going on in my body. Every time I have a flare, I go through every possible reason why it happened. Lately with all the changes in my life, I have noticed more frequent nausea and loss of appetite related to feelings of nervousness.
Harvard Health states that the brain has a direct effect on the stomach and intestines. This helps explain why you may feel nauseous or have an upset stomach before a big presentation or when under pressure. For people with digestive disorders like myself, it is difficult to heal the gut when stress and emotion are omnipresent. Not only that, but many people with GI disorders also perceive pain more acutely than other people do. Stress has been the main contributor to my disease progression and I am hyperaware of any pain that I feel in my gut.
Johns Hopkins Medicine also has a great article about the gut-brain connection. It states that the enteric nervous system (ENS) controls digestion from swallowing and breaking down food, to the control of blood flow that helps with nutrient absorption. The ENS can trigger big emotional shifts experienced by people coping with digestive disorders like IBD and IBS. The ENS is like a second brain, so finding ways to get your two brains to talk to each other and cope in a healthy way is a win. This could explain why many people with digestive disorders develop anxiety and depression.
So how do I combat feelings of stress? Through meditation, deep breathing, exercise. Everything I have shared with you on my blog so far are steps I actively take to ultimately mitigate my stress levels. I have to mention that the lull of the lockdown was also a positive contributor in allowing me to slow down. I do get feelings of anxiety and depression sometimes. But I choose to respond to those feelings in a healthy way. The fear of being so stressed out that I fall into a flare scares me so much that I will not do anything to risk getting that way again.
Having a chronic illness is not easy. Let alone a digestive disorder that impacts mostly every aspect of my life. Feelings of stress, anxiety, depression, worry, and embarrassment are normal. I suggest discussing first with your doctor some healthy strategies to combat the stressors in your life. Once you have a solid plan, it may help ease your digestive discomfort.
Do you find that feelings of nervousness trigger GI symptoms for you? Let me know how you cope with these feelings in the comments below!