Many people wonder whether stress can cause an increase in flatulence or gas.
The answer is yes. Here is how stress causes more gas.
Let’s recap the basics of the gas. Gas is produced when undigested food makes its way to the large intestine. The large intestine has hundreds of different types of bacteria. These bacteria will feed on the undigested food when it is available. Whenever bacteria ferment something, they always produce gas as a by-product.
The key is that when undigested food enters the colon, it produces gas. There are a couple of ways the undigested food can enter the colon.
Many food items that we consume have components which we cannot digest. The examples are dietary fibers. We are not equipped to digest them with enzymes. These are bound to make their way to the colon. We rely on bacterial fermentation to break down such food components.
Other times, something goes wrong with the production of necessary digestive enzymes. Because of the lack of the enzymes, the food cannot be digested in the small intestine. This undigested food then makes its way to the large intestine. Had there been enough enzyme present in the small intestine, it would have digested the food.
Whenever we are stressed, our body deploys what is called “fight or flight” response. Stress makes our body think that we are in danger and we have to prepare to either fight out the situation or we need to run away from the situation.
To prepare for such a response a prioritization of resources takes place. Non essential systems which we can afford to slow down or pause, is stopped. The resources from non-essential system are sent to other motor organs like our legs and hand muscles to prepare them for fighting or running away.
Unfortunately in such situations the digestive system is a non-essential system. The digestive system is essential in the long run, but when the immediate situation becomes a life or death situation, the digestive system becomes secondary. At such times it is more important that you are able to fight or run away.
You may think that moderately stressful situations are not really life or death situations. That is true. But that is not how our body reacts. Even the mildest stressful situation is perceived as a fight or flight situation. That is how the human body works.
This is how bad even the moderate amount of stress is.
The real issue is not this mechanism itself. The mechanism is there to keep us alive and is a very important one. The real issue is that we have changed our environment such that we face many more instances of such situation. Our body is not capable of handling many such fight or flight responses. In the past our lives were simple and we were not exposed to such a frequency that we are exposed today.
Coming back to the redistribution of resources, the blood flow is diverted away from the digestive system. Because of which, the digestive enzyme production slows down or halts. Even nerve signals are slowed down in the digestive system. This causes the intestinal muscles to slow down.
As we saw earlier, if there is not enough digestive enzymes, more undigested food will make its way to the colon. There will be more bacterial fermentation and more gas.
If the intestinal muscular movement stops, the undigested food gets stuck in the large intestine. This means more time for bacterial fermentation and more gas.
As you can see, stress causes the redistribution of resources. The digestive system is disrupted and normal digestion doesn’t take place. This causes more gas, constipation and other digestive issues.
Many times, stressful situation causes diarrhea also. Sometimes, the colon reacts to the stressful situations by release lots of water. This results in diarrhea.
Stress could gas more gas, constipation or diarrhea, depending upon several other factors. We are all unique. We react differently to stressful situations.
Hopefully it is clear how stress causes more flatulence. One should take steps to find and address the stress to keep up the proper digestive health.