You know that twisting feeling in your stomach when you find out that your in-laws are coming for a visit? How about that rise in body temperature while trying to make an important decision that sends your blood pumping and flushes your cheeks? Stress is your body’s natural reaction to a situation in order to shock your brain and body into action. Every conscious living being has had to deal with stress in their lives in one way or another. The effects of stress on the healthy human body can cause a multitude of physical symptoms and has been proven to lead the way towards future illness. What about those with Gastroparesis who are already sick? It’s important to understand the effects that stress can have on your body to help lead the way towards conquering stress in your life.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines stress as “a physical, chemical, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension and may be a factor in disease causation” or “a state resulting from a stress; especially:
one of bodily or mental tension resulting from factors that tend to alter an existent equilibrium” (seehttp://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/stress
Stress comes in many forms and can affect parts of the human body in a variety of different ways. Long term stress’ effect on the brain is known for putting many people at a high risk for Alzheimer’s and dementia. The effects of stress on your body can also lead to an increased heart rate and cause your blood pressure to rise. In order for the blood pressure to rise, the stress hormones called “epinephrine and cortisol” must jump start and raise your blood sugar to bring more energy to your body.
People without Diabetes have many compensatory mechanisms that help regulate glucose levels. When people with Gastroparesis and Diabetes become stressed and their blood pressure rises, the compensatory mechanisms are either nonexistent or are not working as well as they should so it causes blood sugar levels to rise or become sporadic. When people with diabetes and Gastroparesis are struggling with sporadic blood sugar levels it often sends them into Gastroparesis attacks. When people with diabetes and Gastroparesis struggle with a Gastroparesis attack, it causes blood sugar levels to become sporadic. It’s a vicious cycle that can lead to mountains of complications and make treatment for both illnesses extremely difficult.
The effect that stress causes on your over-all digestive system is HUGE! Your enteric nervous system that sends signals to your central nervous system is in charge of all of the muscles and nerves in your digestive system. Chris Iliades, an MD
wrote that “When stress activates the “flight or fight” response in your central nervous system, digestion can shut down because your central nervous system shuts down blood flow, affects the contractions of your digestive muscles, and decreases secretions needed for digestion” (see http://www.everydayhealth.com
The effects that negative stress can have on the body in those with Gastroparesis, is known to cause an increase in symptoms and a decrease in their over-all quality of life. When the nerves and muscles in the stomach are already sending messages of pain to the brain, a stressful event or situation can lead their body into over drive and result in hospitalizations. Stress in those with Gastroparesis can trigger spells of nausea, vomiting, and stomach spasms that often lead to Gastroparesis attacks. Gastroparesis attacks are any length in time in which someone with Gastroparesis has an increase in symptoms to where symptoms become hard to manage or completely unmanageable all together. Gastroparesis attacks lead to a large amount of symptoms and complications such as a decrease in pain management, dehydration, malnutrition, weight loss and weight gain. The weight gain in those with Gastroparesis is often due to the fact that body is so malnourished that it holds on to any nutrition it receives while going into starvation mode.
Stress can cause shortness of breath, weight loss, weight gain, diarrhea, panic attacks, abdominal pain, and Irritable bowel syndrome. It can cause spasms in the esophagus, nausea, vomiting, and spasms of the abdominal wall. Stress also causes your heart to race, increases in blood pressure causing the feeling of being feverish, it can even lower your immune system, and make you subject to infections as well as a plethora of diseases. Every living being reacts to stress in a completely different way and some people are better at coping and dealing with stress than others.
As unhealthy as stress is for the body, there are times when stress can be equally beneficial for your body. Small amounts of stress at a time can help your body learn to adapt to sudden changes. The more you’re exposed to small amounts of stress the more likely you are able to handle a little bit more amounts of stress later on. The human body as complex as it is, continually changes and adapts to keep you as healthy as possible. So small amounts of stress can be a very positive thing but there is a fine line when positive stress crosses over into negative stress and that is when stress management is so important.
Often times reducing your stress level can be as simple as planning ahead to avoid specific situations. Other times stress needs to be treated in the same fashion that you would treat an illness by consulting your primary care physician. Antianxiety medications can be prescribed by your doctor to help control the effects that stress can cause to your body. More natural approaches consist of seeking out a counselor, or a therapist to allow you to work through the situation that is causing you stress. Choosing a pleasurable activity such as sports or something that speaks to your creative side like painting or writing is another great way to reduce the stress in your life. Exercise, sleep, and proper nutrition not only help you prevent future stress in your life but help aid in having more manageable Gastroparesis symptoms. Massage therapy, aroma therapy, musical therapy, spas, acupuncture, and therapeutic Animal therapy are other ways that adjust your blood pressure, and reduce your heart rate. Other ideas for reducing stress can be found at:http://emilysstomach.blogspot.com/2013/05/relaxation-techniques-from-mayo.html
Note** I am not a physician, please consult your doctor before you discontinue any medications or start any new treatment plans.