Stressed Out? So Is Your Digestion

Have you ever noticed that when you’re feeling overwhelmed, your stomach may feel bogged down too? “The digestive system is not a separate assembly line in the body,” says registered dietitian Robyn Flipse. “It’s connected to everything else in the way you feel and function.” Stress, anxiety and frustration can manifest themselves in symptoms of bloating, constipation, cramps or nausea.

Here are Flipse’s tips on how to keep your stress levels low and your digestive function high.

Tip No. 1: Eat on a regular schedule.
This helps your digestive system in two ways: When you have breakfast, lunch and dinner in regular intervals, you’re less likely to be ravenous -- a depleted state of energy that won’t help you react well to stressful situations. Plus, healthy and regular meals that contain fiber help keep the digestive system functioning optimally. Start your day with a bowl of high-fiber cereal, like Kellogg’s All-Bran®, which contains wheat bran fiber (a very concentrated source of fiber). Just one serving of this cereal will get you nearly halfway to meeting your daily recommended fiber quota.

Tip No. 2: Know your own stress triggers.
What raises the hackles of one person may roll off the back of another. Stress is very individualized. “Knowing your own triggers gives you a chance to make changes in the way you react to it,” says Flipse. If traffic drives you nuts, think about adjusting your schedule so you aren’t driving in the crush of rush hour traffic. Or if making dinner every night feels overwhelming, get your partner (or kids) on board to prepare meals a few weekdays or on weekends.

Tip No. 3: Find time to regroup and restore yourself.
Whether it’s meditation, yoga or listening to music, most everyone has some trusted activity that helps calm them down. “What they all have in common is centering,” says Flipse. The problem is remembering you need to do it. One of the factors that makes stress so damaging is that we lose sight of the big picture. Everything may seem equally important, but it really isn’t. “Ask yourself what really needs to be tackled right away, and what really doesn’t,” she says. You may find you have more spare moments on hand to take a deep breath.