How STRESS Changes Your Digestion...(and what to do about it)

healthy living stress
Woman wringing her hands

I know most people won’t relate to this post on STRESS... ;) but hey, for the few of us who have been experiencing more stress than usual in the last year or so, it’s important to realize how that is impacting your BODY.

Have you ever gone through stressful seasons of your life when you felt like food sensitivities came out of nowhere? Like foods you had been eating forever now bothered your? Where you felt bloated after eating almost anything?  

You aren't crazy. Well, you may be. But not about this. Watch the video below or keep reading!



When it comes to digestive woes, we often just look at the foods we are consuming (cut this out, don't eat this, eat that...) but one HUGE piece of the puzzle is the INTERNAL ENVIRONMENT THAT THAT FOOD IS ENTERING INTO! If your food is entering into an already stressed and inflamed gut, you will experience more acute responses to food than you naturally would.

Stress is meant to protect us, it is an immune and hormonal response to external or internal pressure. Stress can come from all sorts of sources like:

  • emotional or external stress (like the world being in flames, career, relational, or anxiety induced stressors)

  • inflammatory foods

  • environmental toxins and pollutants

  • lack of recovery (sleep or rest)

  • too much exercise

  • too much caffeine


Before you go starting to diagnose yourself, usually our stress response is a combination of a few or a lot of different factors. Your life will likely get a lot better when you stop looking for the quick fix and start paying attention to what your body really needs to get back into balance.

Your body works on the principle of prioritization. Doing the most important thing to keep us alive and thriving! So when stress is super high, our digestion takes a back seat. This may mean more food sensitivities, more inflammation, bloat, gas, hormonal imbalance, nutrient deficiencies, etc.. Here are some of the ways I work with clients to help them ease their digestion when stress is high!


1. Restore mineral balance. 

I help clients do this through food first, but supplementation may be necessary if you are already deficient. Vitamin A, C, E, Selenium, and many more nutrients can be depleted when cortisol (stress hormone) is overproduced. THINK VIBRANT FRUITS, VEGGIES, HERBS, AND SPICES. Instead of the constant focus of what you have to cut out, look for ways to ADD IN these colorful, medicinal foods.


2. Eat (much more) slowly.

Slowing down while eating and chewing can help you actually listen to the signals your gut is sending to your brain, keeping you from getting overfull and stressing your digestion even more! This can help you feel SO MUCH BETTER AFTER MEALS. It can take about 20-30 minutes for the hormones in your stomach to signal to your brain that you are no longer hungry, or full. Most of us finish our meals in 6-7 minutes, leaving it near impossible to actually listen to our bodies.


3. Balance your blood sugar.

Try and balance your meals with a Protein, Carb, and Fat if possible. This will keep your blood sugar from spiking and crashing all day. Eating more consistently can also help you stay away from intense cravings or the binge/ restrict cycle and communicates to your body that you are in a reliable environment. If this feels like a foreign concept to you, maybe start by creating a schedule of eating every 4-5 hours, to keep your red alert systems from firing all day long!


4. Prioritize sleep.

Sleep is responsible for your REST and DIGEST functions. Sleep helps you repair and recover. Sleep is essential for you to manage stress, emotion, digestion, ANYTHING. This is one of the most powerful and most underutilized tools to combat stress that we have. USE IT! 7-9 hours are the normal recommendations for most adults, but if you are still tired, try and push it a little more towards 9-10 or add in a nap. (PS you can use sleep like a bank, you can't build it up on the weekends and skimp during the week.) Listen to this podcast on sleep to get more info on it!


5. Simplify your food choices.

When you are stressed, digestion isn't a priority. Decreasing inflammation and finding hormonal balance is. This is why some people find themselves without an appetite when they are stressed, because their body isn't asking for food that it is not going to digest well. Think about why you crave easy, simple, carb dominant foods when you are injured or ill: because digestion is taking a back seat to healing. 

Regardless, your body still needs energy and nutrients. TIP: MAKE IT SIMPLE. Even if you are making meals with incredible ingredients, if there are 30 of them, your body still has to work very hard to break that all down. This may be a great time to have simpler smoothies, toast with PB, having a bunch of fruit for breakfast or a snack, or looking to simplify the amount of ingredients in your meals.


5. Deal with your crap.

(Hehe!) Make sure you are showing up in real life to actually work on and through your stressors. If you are not consistently dealing with the root causes of your stress, these tips will likely HELP your stressed out gut, not heal it.


ooooooooor work with a KYPO Health Coach to take charge of your health, stress, and digestion!