Self, Health And Wellness

This Is Why Your Stomach Is So Sensitive To Emotions (& 5 Ways To Feel Better!)

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sensitive stomach

The "psyche-soma connection". It's a buzz word going around these days that has turned some heads. We hear about it a lot when talking about people's gastro-intestinal (aka tummy) issues. 

I was just listening to a physician speak about the effects of trauma on the body and I couldn't help but think, "How has it taken this long to start discussing the significant correlation between the body and the mind?"

As a technologically-advanced society, we are wreaking havoc on our bodies. "The cell phone slouch" is affecting people's spines as they lean over their phones on top of spending hours slouching in a chair or over their phones. 

Similarly, having stomach and bowel problems may be warning signs that your gut is reacting to your stress and emotional levels

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I have seen this first-hand in my own life, as well as in my therapy office.

I realized at the age of 20 that I was lactose intolerant and had a very difficult time digesting milk products, which subsequently increased my morning bathroom routine. Interestingly enough, I was also a full-time college student living away from home, getting very little sleep, and also working part-time.

Coincidence? I think not. As an adult, later on, my lactose intolerance has improved as I have learned how to take care of my mental and physical well-being.

If you relate to having "tummy troubles" like me and so many others, it's important to know that there are things you can do help manage your sensitive stomach*!

Here are 5 tips for how to reduce this discomfort and address the underlying issues (after you visit your primary care physician to rule out any serious physiological issues):

1. Get enough rest.

If you aren't sleeping enough (the CDC recommends adults get seven hours or more per night for adults ages 18-30), this can really wreak havoc all over the place — from your mood to your alertness levels, your body surely will compensate you poorly for not allowing yourself to adequately rest.

Yes, even your sensitive stomach can pay the price for not getting enough rest, so schedule a good night's sleep in, and see if your tummy feels better. 

2. Check your eating habits.

Are you eating the proper foods?

Again, consult your physician on what they recommend you eat. If you are so busy that you are forgetting to provide your body nutrition, your body will go into "survival" mode and shut down - which also takes a toll on your bodily systems. Mention the medications you take to your physician - some side effects may also include constipation, which may not assist you in the gut health department.

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3. Move around.

Going back to that "slouching" part about how often we are stuck behind a chair, this can also deliver a heavy blow to our digestion; among other systems.

One positive aspect of our technologically-inclined society is that there are devices such as the Apple Watch and FitBit that allow hourly reminders to move around if one becomes too sedentary. Others enjoy taking a brisk walk on their lunch break.

Many have reported success with their digestive system simply by taking a yoga class.

4. Plan a calming activity and incorporate mindfulness.

Even if you can't afford to get away from it all, setting aside five to ten minutes a day to envision a relaxing place in your mind can be all it takes to recenter and refocus your thoughts; which in turn (you guessed it), may have a calming effect on your body's system.

5. Assess the toxicity levels in your life.

Are you surrounding yourself with unbearable work deadlines and unhealthy relationships?

Take an inventory of the percentage of your day that is stressful versus relaxing. How can you create more balance in your day? Is that too overwhelming a task, or don't know how/where to start? Talking it out with a professional to prioritize and get your life back on a healthier relationship track may help your stomach, too. 

Ultimately, your body is comprised of biological systems and signals that provide the natural checks and balances for how you are currently conducting your life.

In a society that values productivity often over self-care, these protective factors such as your digestive health can be overlooked by others, but it doesn't have to be overlooked by you. Without health (mind and body), it is difficult to achieve the very goals you are setting out to accomplish.

Use your mind to not only "check items off your to-do list" but also to turn inwards and listen to your body — it has a story to tell.

RELATED: The Scary Truth About What Happens To Your Body When You're Stresssed

Dr. Maxine Langdon Starr is a licensed marriage and family therapist in California specializing in adolescents and young adults. If you'd like to reach out to her, you can visit her webpage.

*Note: Please seek professional medical advice as the first line of intervention. Physical issues supersede psychological issues.

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