• Heidi DuBois

Stress, Mood, and Digestive Health. What's the Connection?

Updated: Aug 22, 2019

Did you know that 85% of all disease is caused by stress? What happens to your body when it experiences stress that causes disease? Let's explore this and see what we can do to prevent disease and keep our bodies healthy and happy.

When we experience stress, it activates the sympathetic nervous system. This is our "flight or flight" nervous system responsible to activating the parts of the body needed to get in to a fist fight or run from a bear. Our bodies produce adrenaline and blood is routed to the large muscles of the body, the heart rate increases, blood pressure increases, breathing becomes more shallow. All of these mean that the internal organs of the body are getting less blood flow, oxygen, and nutrients. This is all fine and dandy for the time required to take care of a particular stressor. However, in our Western world, we often experience stress most of the time.

What does this mean for our body? Let's start from the head down. When our brain doesn't get the blood flow and oxygen that it requires, it you might experience sleep disturbances, the inability to turn off your brain, anxiety, and eventually depression. Does any of this sound familiar?

Additionally, the parasympathetic nervous system (the rest and digest system) regulates salivation. Salivation is the first step of digestion. Saliva actually starts to break down food during the initial phases of chewing. When you're eating in a period of stress, you might not have as much saliva to start that part of the digestive process. Additionally, when you're stressed, you're probably not chewing your food very well. AND that's just the beginning of the digestive process!

Further down the digestive tract, stress causes your liver to stimulate glucose production and release which gives you a quick boost.... and then a drop in energy. Stress also inhibits digestion in the stomach and inhibits secretions in the small and large intestines. This can lead to indigestion, heart burn, gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and poor nutrient absorption. Did you know that the majority of your body's endorphins (feel good hormones) are also produced in the digestive tract? It's true!!! It also turns out that there's a huge brain/gut connection. When your gut is not working at it's optimum, it can lead to issues with depression, anxiety, and sleep.

What does this look like on your face? Horizontal lines across your forehead may signify stress, anxiety, depression, poor sleep, and/or digestive issues. Prominent smile lines may indicate an imbalance in your large intestine, and smoker's lines (bar codes) might indicate an imbalance in your small intestine (responsible for nutrient absorption) or pancreas (responsible for blood sugar/ insulin regulation).

With Facial Reflexology you can both smooth the wrinkles, improve the skin and stimulate the Parasympathetic Nervous System to send more relaxing signals to the body. Because the face is so close the the brain, signals are sent immediately and results are often immediate. I also give my clients "homework." This consists of things that they can do at home to maintain results. Facial Reflexology is great for improving the amount and quality of sleep, soothing anxiety, boosting happiness endorphins, strengthening the digestive system, increasing peristalsis (digestive movement), decreasing heartburn, indigestion, stomach issues, and bloating.

Your body is amazing at healing itself. It also gives us clues when things aren't quite right. These clues may be small and irregular at first. If we ignore these clues, it's possible and probable that these small things turn into larger problems. Take care of yourself and listen to your body's signals... don't let small issues turn into big health problems!

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