When stress is on… digestion is turned off.


Well we are designed to make an emergency situation or response an actual EMERGENCY so all other systems in the body are turned off or dampened.  Our body prioritizes emergency situations!

Stressful situation and even worse CHRONIC stressors (living life as a race, food allergies, gut infection…) will constantly activate the FIGHT OR FLIGHT nervous system- the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) which in exchange turns off the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) for our REST, REPAIR & DIGEST processes.  If we are chronically turning on the stress response system (HPA Axis = hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis) then we are putting ourselves constantly in the sympathetic nervous system to such an extent we could become STUCK in the “fight or flight” nervous system.  This constant “living life as a race” mode can turn us into “sympathetic dominant” – where we are not able to switch back to PNS then back to SNS as needed or rather resiliantcy to switch nervous systems throughout the day.

We talked last blog post about the VAGAL TONE and tricks to strengthen the vagal nerve to help our PNS for recover, repair, detoxification and proper digestion.  I love to use the Meo-Energetics Vagal Tone and the Brain De-Flame energetic oils for clients, as well as myself, to help strengthen and “turn on” the PNS.  The Parasympathetic Nervous System is responsible for our maintence throught the day and night (detoxification system or our internal housekeeping), restore, repair, relax and digest.

The SNS responds to stress and mobilizes the body (and mind) for a physical reaction – “run from a lion” which generally speaking shuts off the digestion processes to make sure the body has all emergency supplies and resource to win the battle at hand.  The body needs to focus all energy to the blood, muscles and heart to prepare for the attack.

But what if we are eating a meal while we are talking on a conference call or working on the computer or doing ten other things at once?  Are we eating in a calm, focused relaxed state to make sure we are going to be in the “rest and digest” nervous system branch.  We soon find ourselves with symptoms related to a dysfunctional digestive system and gut biome.

One of my favorite resources to learn more about the stress response and our internal health is www.drwilsons.com and one of their posts explains the role of the PNS and digestion:

  • saliva and digestive enzymes are secreted to breakdown the food we eat
  • food travels through the track at the optimal pace for nutrients to be absorbed
  • muscular contractions in the intestine are smooth and regular
  • sphincters are opened to allow normal passage of food through the gut
  • the lining of the track is maintained and repaired regularly
  • blood flows through the digestion organs to receive nutrients from food and to bring oxygen from the lungs
  • the immune cells in the digestive tract protect the body and the tissues of the digestive system against infection
  • beneficial bacteria grow, supported by a balanced intestinal environment
  • and more on www.drwilsons.com

Obviously, stress impacts your digestion system – especially chronic stressors which can be from internal or external sources – or both!  As I shared in my story “LIFE IS NOT A RACE:  IS IT A JOURNEY” (on Amazon) 

Slow down and pace the WHOLE you especially if you want to digest your food properly, absorb the nutrients to fuel your body, improve your immune system, sleep, detoxification, repair, inflammation… and more!

Talk to you next week!

Coach Debbie Potts

Check out the upcoming dates to take part in a program designed to help individuals of all levels manage their stress to return to our ideal health and improve performance for life by working on the WHOLE person…from the inside out.