Did I pay that bill? Is my spouse angry with me? Am I performing my best at work?
Every day, we face situations, questions, and dilemmas that create stress in our bodies…and that negative energy doesn’t simply disappear without consequences.
Chronic stress can cause or exacerbate a multitude of physical health problems, including acid reflux and GERD.
If you notice a correlation between your stress levels and an increase in symptoms such as heartburn and indigestion–that isn’t a mere coincidence.
At the moment, it’s unclear and unresolved as to whether stress actually increases acid levels in your stomach, or simply makes individuals more sensitive to symptoms and psychosomatically experience them on a greater scale.
For example, in a 2005 study published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research, the esophageal acid levels were measured in 42 patients who suffered from acid reflux. The researchers induced stress in half of the group by asking them to prepare and deliver a five-minute speech.
The acid levels in both groups were found to be the same, but patients in the group that gave the speeches reported more intense acid reflux symptoms. The conclusion of the study was that this group’s sensitivity to their symptoms had been heightened due to the impact of the stressful situation.
What is known is that stressed individuals can experience a drop in prostaglandins levels, hormone-like substances which protect the lining of the stomach with a coating.
Additionally, when you experience stress your body experiences a loss of magnesium, which is needed to relax the sphincter at the bottom of your stomach that actually lets the food go down.
When you don’t have enough magnesium, the food flows the opposite direction and causes indigestion and heartburn.
Whether there really is a physical increase in acid levels during periods of stress or not, the point is that a person with acid reflux still feels a worsening of symptoms when stress is present.
What can you do about this? It’s actually pretty simple and intuitive.
To promote healthy digestion, you need to find ways to relax. Learning to breathe more consciously before eating can be particularly helpful in dealing with stress.
This week, I want you to try the following out: Take five breaths before each meal. Breathe in deeply for a count of five, then out deeply for a count of five.
Deep breathing slows the heart rate and lowers blood pressure, and as your nervous system works better under this state of increased relaxation, you’ll be able to digest your food better.
Another helpful suggestion is to find ways to reduce stress-causing factors in your life. For example, you may be taking on more than you can tackle. If your schedule is becoming too full and hectic, it may be time to cut down on unnecessary commitments.
Additionally, as mentioned before, magnesium levels can be depleted by stress, so try to add magnesium supplements to your regimen of care.
Stress is a pesky and commonplace emotion for many people. The good news is that it can be managed, and easing acid reflux symptoms is just one of many positive outcomes for getting a handle on and decreasing stress.
Curious about the additional effects of chronic stress in the body? Learn more here.