The holiday season is perceived as a time for happiness, gratitude and selflessness spent with loved ones. So why does this time of year often trigger a feeling of dread? The answer: holiday stress.
Time management and money worries during the festive season can cause a lot of stress. Organizing work commitments, buying gifts and planning when and where to spend time with family and friends can cause your body to go into overload, resulting in many symptoms, such as fatigue, anxiety, and skin conditions such as eczema (Help Guide, 2017).
You may worry about the effects of stress on your mind, but perhaps not the physical symptoms, such as digestion problems. Sometimes we can work ourselves too hard before realizing the detrimental effects on our insides.
How can stress affect the digestive system?
When you think of stress, digestion is not always the first issue that comes to mind. However, stress can affect the digestive system in many ways that can turn your holidays from fun to feeble in a matter of minutes. Stress can affect the contractions of your digestive muscles, and decrease the secretions needed for digestion. It can cause inflammation of the gastrointestinal system, and therefore make you more susceptible to infection (Everyday Health, undated).
Stress and diarrhea
When you are feeling stressed or nervous, you often have a nauseated feeling in your stomach causing irritable bowel movements. This could be a change in your colon contractions that are reacting to your ‘fight or flight’ system. This increased colon contraction speed can cause diarrhea, which explains why you may need to go to the bathroom more often when feeling nervous or anxious (Everyday Health, undated).
Another cause of diarrhea when feeling stressed is the rush of adrenaline that redistributes water and blood flow (Calm Clinic, undated). This leads to changes in your large intestine and gastrointestinal tract, ultimately effecting your stool health.
Stress on your stomach acids
Stress and digestion do not go hand in hand, especially when it comes to your stomach acids. All your muscles can feel the tension of holiday stress; even the tiny ones that make up the muscular tube that is your esophagus. This tension can cause your esophagus to go into spasms or work differently to normal, resulting in painful swallowing (Everyday Health, undated).
Another way the esophagus is affected by stress is the movement of the lower esophageal sphincter that stops acid coming back up the throat after swallowing. If this muscle is contracting too often, this could cause acid reflux, indigestion or heart burn. Therefore, you may sometimes have a bitter taste in your mouth, chest pains or have trouble swallowing when you are rundown or stressed.
How to combat the impact of holiday stress on your digestion
One of the most important systems in our body, our digestive system, is fundamental for converting the food we eat into nutrients for energy, cell repair and growth, so it is crucial that we take care of our insides during the hectic holiday season. Avoiding stress and staying on top of your digestive health can be achieved by following these top tips.
As the holiday season is a time renowned for selflessness, we often forget about ourselves. If you are prone to holiday stress, try to put yourself first. Don’t be afraid to say no to plans that you don’t want to be involved in. Overloading yourself with social events can cause anxiety and fatigue, resulting in stress on both your body and mind. So, say no to that overtime at work, or your neighbor’s house party, or whatever it is that you are dreading taking part in during this festive season. This will reduce your physical symptoms of stress and allow you to create time for yourself.
Exercise for your body and mind
Light exercise, such as walking, swimming or beginners’ yoga, are all wonderful ways to reduce stress during the holidays. Yoga brings together physical and mental disciplines that may help you achieve peacefulness of body and mind. This can help you relax and manage stress and anxiety.
Whether you’re experiencing short-lived or constant levels of stress, taking a moment for yourself to practice yoga for controlled breathing, meditation or relaxation (Mayo Clinic, 2015).
To maintain the right balance of microflora in your body, probiotics are beneficial bacteria that work in the lower intestines. Digestive problems you may suffer from include, constipation, diarrhea or regular gas. Luckily, you can easily find digestive supplements that help to control digestive problems.
If you find that preventative methods for holiday stress are not working for your digestive system, taking Digestive Advantage Probiotic Gummies can help lessen minor abdominal discomfort and support your digestive health*.
Calm Clinic (undated) Diarrhea and anxiety: the link, problem, and cure
Everyday Health (undated) How stress affects digestion
Help Guide (2017) Stress symptoms, signs, and causes
Just Mind (2017) How yoga reduces stress
Mayo Clinic (2015) Stress Management
Very Well (2017) How stress and anxiety case diarrhea