Could exam stress be causing your bloating?

Anita WalshAnita Walsh reports

STRESS is without doubt
one of the most underestimated
causes of both mental
and physical illness in our
society. As our reliance and
fascination with technology
continues to increase, we
have unfortunately forgotten
how to unwind and maintain
a healthy mind-set. An
important factor to consider
is that ‘stress’ and what the
majority of people consider
to be major events such as a
bereavement, divorce/separation
or loss of a job etc, can
be simply a daily build-up of
small stressors that people
experience; some common
stressors include skipping
breakfast and meals, stuck in
traffic, working with people
who stress you out and with
both junior and leaving certificate
this week, stress is
certainly in the air.
So how can chronic stress
effect my digestion? Very
easily! Our entire digestive
tract and every mucus lined
membrane (ears, nose and
mouth etc) that our body
has, is lined with an antibody
known as secretory IgA
(SIgA). This is our bodies’
first line of defence against
any invaders including bacteria’s,
viruses and parasites
etc. An easy way to think of
SIgA is to compare it to a
bouncer on a nightclub door.
If they are not on duty then
effectively anyone can enter.
If they are under staffed then
some people who shouldn’t
be allowed to enter may pass
Research has now proven
that stress causes a reduction
in our levels of SIgA,
so before we even speak
about digestion, if we just
think about our SIgA’s role in
our entire immunity, it soon
becomes clear that if stress
levels are high every breath
that we inhale can make us
more susceptible to infection
and colds etc. In a healthy
digestive system our ratio
of good bacteria (gut floramicrobiome)
to not so good
bacteria/fungus etc. should
be roughly 85:15. If SIgA
levels are reduced from constant
stress, this instantly has
a knock-on negative effect
on this balance. According to
scientists from the Ohio State
University, exposure to stress
led to changes in composition,
diversity and number
of gut microorganisms and
at the same time also led to
a greater number of potentially
harmful bacteria. Our
gut flora not only makes up
to 80% of our entire immune
system, they also help us
digest our food. If their levels
are reduced or imbalanced we
can now experience symptoms
like bloating and excess
wind as well as a reduction in
our overall immunity.
How many of you can
relate bloating, cramping
and digestive complaints
with exam or interview time?
With so many conditions
now being linked to altered
gut flora some including
intolerances, allergies, multiple
sclerosis, ulcerative
colitis etc., it is important
to remember not to let stress
have a lasting effect on your
overall health.
My advice is to take some
time to unwind, try some
deep breathing exercises,
walking in general and
always remember to have
some fun!
Maybe it’s time we listened
to our body and not the
latest version of ITunes!

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