Stress can be detrimental to a person’s health on all levels. Each and every bodily system seems to be effected on so many levels. The connection between the heart and cardiovascular system and stress has been well documented and, now, is widely known to the general public. But what about the connection between stress and the digestive system? How much do we know about it?
We know that stress can cause the esophagus to spasm. That same stress that can cause the esophageal spasm can shut down the mill action of the stomach, in turn, causing nausea. The stomach lining is filled with nerve endings which are constantly sending information back and forth from the brain. It has been found that some neurotransmitters are present in a higher concentration in the digestive system than anywhere else! This nervous system network, now referred to as the enteric nervous system, has its own nerve plexi and sends reflexive information to and receives it from the brain, independently of the divisions of the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS).
Knowing this, and doing things to prevent the effects of stress from ravaging one’s digestive tract, can be quite different matters. For example, I have had trouble swallowing for as long as I can remember. As a kid, food would get stuck in my throat routinely. During periods of high stress and anxiety, it would become worse. Dinners where arguments ensued would just produce pain. In fact, just a couple short months ago, I found myself in a position where I suffered the consequences of not “practicing what I preach.” I was at my “real world job,” and I ended up working alone. I was hoping to stay ahead of the game by working and eating at the same time. However, upon my first bite of chicken, I found myself choking. After a brief flash of my life before my eyes, the real panic set in. You see, I am the emergency responder on my shift. I am supposed to give aid to others in a situation such as this. What in the world was I supposed to do for myself?
I threw myself over the back of a chair. This moved the bite of chicken, but it became lodged in my throat. Therefore, no water, food, etc could get down and the chicken would not come back up, either. I finished my shift, in pain, went home to see my children off to school and then drove myself to my doctor’s office. MY family doctor, even though he knew I did not want to go, sent me on to the emergency room of the local hospital. There, they could not offer any more aid. A surgeon had to be called in. Three hours later, I was the recipient of an esophageal dilation. While I realize the necessity of the procedure, I do not suggest anyone signing up for it unless absolutely needed.
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