• Dr. Kate Ricciardi

15 Simple Stress Reducing Strategies to Focus on Your Self-Care & Digestive Health

Updated: Apr 16


You get stressed and you get butterflies in your stomach. Or, maybe you've experienced a stomach ache or even diarrhea because of it. There's a reason for it and it's because our gut and brain are connected.


You've heard people say that they need some "me time" and it's something everyone should have. Whether they realize it or not, they're practicing self-care. Practicing mindful self-care has been show to improve things like self-esteem, self-worth and promotes rest, relaxation...all of which are good to reduce stress.



Stress impacts our gut. Our gut is linked to our brain via the gut-brain axis. The stress response begins in the brain. When someone experiences a stressful event, the information goes to the amygdala, where our emotions are processed from the sight and sound we are experiencing. If the experience is perceived as stressful, a threat or a danger, it will send a signal to the hypothalamus which then communicates to the rest of the body through the nervous system that is responsible for our fight or flight response, which causes things like increased heart rate, breathing rate, muscle contractions, which impact our gut performance

The gut has millions of neurons, just like the brain, and is referred to as the 2nd brain.

Stress causes our fight or flight response to kick in, which is the opposite of our body's other nervous system response, rest and digest.

Stress and digestion just don't go together, as they stimulate different nervous system responses.

Stress's impact on the gut-brain axis can cause you to feel GI discomforts more easily, like pain and bloating, to name a few and it also causes things like diarrhea because of our body's fight or flight response.

Your body reacts with changes to heart & breath rate, muscles tense up, blood is directed toward your extremities & intestines. This means things like your intestinal contractions speed up and can cause diarrhea. The muscle at the bottom of your esophagus can spasm and lead to heartburn, reflux.

Stress can also impact your digestive healthy by affecting how your body absorbs nutrients from food. If food is going through the GI system too quickly, due to increased muscle contractions, it will be more challenging for your gut to do it's job efficiently and absorb the nutrients it needs...enter deficiencies.

The gut is also responsible for producing & regulating hormones and neurotransmitters to influence things like fear, anxiety, mood, happiness, our body clock, feelings, emotions and much more.

Stress can alter the gut's microbiome (all the microbes that live in your intestines, most commonly focused on bacteria). It's called dysbiosis when the beneficial bacteria are reduced because of stress. Stress impacts our immune system, which weakens it and causes inflammation.

Dysbiosis and inflammation can be a root cause of many GI discomforts, from things like gas, bloating, brain fog, headache, joint pain, chronic fatigue, Migraine, IBS, Crohn's, Colitis to Rheumatoid Arthritis and autoimmune conditions and more.



Here are 15 Self-Care strategies you can start today to help reduce your stress level and help your digestive health.


1. Start a Journal

2. Write a Note

3. Guided Meditation

4. Yoga

5. Use Your Dining Room

6. Schedule Family FaceTime

7. Virtual Dessert Hour

8. Have a Warm Beverage

9. Take a Bath

10. Take a Breath

11. At Home Spa Time

12. Music

13. Stop Comparing

14. Disconnect

15. Eat


To get more ideas for each of these strategies, head over to this post for more detail.



Resources:

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/gut-brain-connection

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15253677/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4036413/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5001845/

https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/understanding-the-stress-response

https://psychcentral.com/lib/the-health-benefits-of-journaling/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7412429

https://www.healthline.com/health/diaphragmatic-breathing#benefits

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     Dr. Kate Ricciardi, DPT RDN CLT     919-797-9296       rdnutritionconsulting.com      info@rdnutritionconsulting.com

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