When Stress Hits the Gut

Stress is a part of our daily lives – it is not something that we can avoid as it has become an ingrained part of our society in North America. However just because stress is part of our daily lives now that doesn’t mean that it is normal for our bodies to be in a chronic state of stress. In fact being under stress so extensively can have detrimental impacts on our bodies physically resulting in various symptoms.

One of the main internal systems that stress impacts is our digestive system. Our digestive system is meant to work when we are relaxed. In a relaxed state our nerves tell our stomach that it is time to produce stomach acid, and our pancreas it is time to release digestive enzymes. When we don’t enter this relaxed state our brains don’t send these proper signals. This means that it is more challenging for our bodies to digest food properly and we can end up with various digestive symptoms or conditions. Thankfully there are some herbs out there that can support this link between our brains and our gut helping to soothe these symptoms as well as support our brains and digestive system to work together even when stress threatens to derail us. While the most important tool to regulate these symptoms is to take the time to eat when we are in a relaxed state these herbs will help to support us when that isn’t possible.

Zingiber officinalis (Ginger): This is anti- inflammatory and anti-spasmodic making it very helpful for pain. It is carminative and a gastrointestinal stimulant helping to support digestion. It is a warming herb that can help to stimulate circulation in the body. It is also very helpful when chewed or drank as a tea for nausea and can help in motion sickness or morning sickness.

Mentha Piperita (Peppermint): THis is a carminitive helping to support the digestive system making it easier for us to digest. It is also a nervine and anti-spasmodic helping to relax the body and mind. It is cooling to decrease inflammation in the GI.

Agrimona eupatoria (Agrimony): This is indicated for tension of any kind in the body. It helps to remove constriction and relax the body. It is a nervine, astringent and bitter. This relaxing function makes it good for any kind of pain. the bitter quality makes it a good support for the digestive system. It also helps us have the ability to take a deep breath. It is ideal for someone who hides their tension behind a false smile, denying pain or who holds their breathe to hide the pain.

Verbena Hasta (Blue Vervain): This is a bitter, cooling plant that helps support both the central nervous system as well as the digestive system. Digestively its bitter nature helps to stimulate the flow of the digestive juices making it easier for the body to handle food. This bitter quality also helps to ground us back into our bodies by putting us in a parasympathetic state. In addition blue vervain helps to calm the mind causing both the body and mind to slow down and hopefully relax. This can decrease stress, tension and anxiety.

Matricaria Recutita (Chamomile): Chamomile is a soothing nervine providing calm energy for strong emotions like anxiety and irritability, It is also anti-inflammatory, soothing both the mind and the body, It has an affinity for both the nervous system and the digestive system with its bitter qualities. It helps soothe stomachs that get upset from stress and emotional trauma. It also helps relax the smooth muscles helping with cramps of any kind – digestive, menstrual and muscular.

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