G – Gastrointestinal Tract

Day 9

After a presentation of mine, a woman came up to me to share one of her experiences: about two decades ago, she went through a period where she was experiencing a considerable amount of pain and discomfort in her gut. Her doctor performed a number of diagnostic tests, all of which came back negative. He sent her on her way, telling her that there was nothing more he could do.

Her gut issue did eventually clear up, seemingly on its own. It wasn't until later that she made the connection. She was attending to her dying mother and was under a huge amount of stress. Although she felt she was handling it, the "second brain" was dealing with it, in its own way, resulting in painful, worrisome symptoms.

Scientists often refer to the "second brain" when they talk about the enteric nervous system - the intrinsic nervous system of the gastrointestinal tract, which is activated under times of stress. You might refer to having butterflies when you are nervous, or feeling like you have a knot in your stomach. Heartburn, diarrhea, constipation and stomachaches can all also be an indication that you are stressed, even if you are not fully aware of it. You may be so busy dealing with the events of the moment that you don't have time to pause and consider how your body is reacting to those events.

In Manage Your Stress - Overcoming Stress in the Modern World, Joseph Strand, MD writes:

"In fact, gastorintestinal disorders and their connection to stress are so ubiquitous that a cohort of UCLA physicians recently created a professional framework for treating patients suffering from this tricky cycle. Their paper, published in The American Journal of Gastroenterolgy in 2011, laid out suggestions for physicians who care for patients with GI disorders to also screen for psychological experiences such as anxiety, fear of accidents, depression, and even suicidal thoughts."

When you are experiencing gut issues, in addition to getting checked out by your doctor, take some time to survey your life. What is going on? More importantly, how are you responding to what is going on in your life? Learn to change your perception with stress techniques and gain a different perspective, which may help to calm down that grumbling gut.

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