The Digestive System Has Its Own Nervous System

By Margaret W. Lavigne 


Researchers describe the guts neurons as a “local mini-brain,”  because our gut is made up of neuron connections.


Our guts send messages to the brain and that’s why we feel hunger, abdominal pain or nausea. Constant communication between the brain and the gut keep our body in good condition. Nevertheless,  when we suffer from high stress, the lines of communication between the brain and gut become scrambled, which leads to upset stomach, constipation, or diarrhea.

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When our body suffers from severe stress, it becomes flooded with adrenaline and CFR hormones. People who suffer from constant chronic stress are constantly flooded with these hormones, which generally lead to indigestion problems. 


Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common disorder that affects the large intestine. Signs and symptoms of IBS include cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, diarrhea and constipation.  To control or solve these symptoms, we have to learn to deal with stress more positively.


The Digestive System Has Its Own Nervous System

Different systems of the body are interconnected and the brain-gut connection is one of the examples. The digestive system has its own nervous system, namely the enteric nervous system, which consists of approximately 100 million nerve cells in and around the GI tract. The enteric nervous system is intimately interconnected with millions of immune cells which survey the digestive system and convey information back to the brain.


Common negative emotions such as anxiety, depression, fear, and suppressed anger all affect the GI system in the negative way, which might speed up or slow down the movements of the GI tract. If strong negative emotion persist, the digestive system will become overly sensitive and the make it easier for bacteria to cross the gut lining. Ultimately, inflammation increases rapidly in the gut and the gut microbiota will be altered.


Inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), and food allergies are hihgly connected to our emotions.

Anxiety and Stress Guarantee Indigestion and Abdominal Fat 

According to Bowe, when our mind perceives stress, it slows down digestion. And when your digestion is slowed, it affects the bacteria in our gut. Further, studies found that high levels of stress affect our gut bacteria much like having a high-fat diet.

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High levels of stress potentially cause a decrease in blood flow and oxygen to the stomach, which could lead to symptoms such as cramping, an imbalance of gut bacteria, gastrointestinal disorders, Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) , or even Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Significantly, GERD can highly affect our sleep quality.


Common symptoms of GERD:  acidic taste in the mouth, regurgitation, and heartburn. Less common symptoms include chronic sore throat, chest pain, and coughing.  GERD might even lead to the injury of the esophagus.



Bowe asserts that “Slowed motility allows for an overgrowth of unhealthy strains of bacteria, and the natural balance of gut microbes is disrupted, leading to something called dysbiosis. This, in turn, causes the lining of your intestines to become ‘leaky,’ or more permeable, which triggers a body-wide cascade of inflammation.”


As a result of the internal inflammation, the skin may break out in acne or experience flare-ups of psoriasis or eczema. Dr. Forum Patel of Union Square Laser Dermatology in New York City explains that when we under stress, our body would identify the situation as something that we are under attack, so our body forms inflammatory markers or inflammatory cells to help treat the attack. As inflammatory cells have increased in number, it triggers flare-ups of any skin conditions.  


Our digestive system is heavily affected by our emotions. The health condition of our gut and mental state is heavily linked. Irritable bowel syndrome occurs when our body suffers from high-stress and anxiety.  Our gut contains several neurons similar to that of the body’s spinal cord.


The Link Between Chronic Stress & Belly Fat 

High-stress levels cause an increase in cortisol,  which is the stress hormone linked to insomnia, belly fat and a host of other issues, and it also triggers the release of inflammatory mediators which bring about the production of collagenase and metalloproteinases, all of which are the enzymes responsible for collagen and elastin breakdown leading to increased wrinkling, laxity and aging.

image source:Stress Hormones & Common cause of Belly Fat


Negative Emotions Trigger the Growth of Inflammatory Cells

A wide range of negative emotions such as anger, sadness, regret, fear, and anxiety do release cortisol and epinephrine. Both activate the inflammatory cascade which can cause inflammatory mediators leading to excessive vasodilation which can lead to conditions like flushing and rosacea, increased inflammatory cells, all of which can cause psoriasis and eczema and autoimmune skin conditions, increased hair loss and more.


Stress Slower Body’s Self-Healing

A number of studies have proven the direct link between positive emotions and increased skin immunity. Conversely, studies also prove that stress triggers skin infections and slower healing time as well.



Margaret W. Lavigne 司馬儀

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