Strong link between stress levels and digestive health issues

Irish people are feeling the effects of the recession, working longer hours and juggling more family commitments than ever before. According to a recent attitudinal survey conducted by Danone, 58 per cent of those in Mayo who claim they are always stressed, recognise that their digestive health has an impact on their stress levels. Sixty per cent of those in Mayo who claimed that they were “stressed all or most of the time” spend less than 15 minutes eating their main meal even though 52 per cent are aware that rushing a meal has a very negative effect on the digestive system.

The survey highlights a strong link between stress levels and digestive health issues, where respondents who claimed that they were “stressed all or most of the time” identified a range of specific digestive health symptoms that they claim resulted from feeling stressed:

Forty eight per cent claim stress caused pain/spasms in the stomach area.

Thirty eight per cent claim stress caused them to feel bloated and to have a swollen stomach.

Thirty six per cent claim stress caused them to suffer from gas and flatulence.

Thirty fiver per cent claim stress caused them to suffer from diarrhoea.

Speaking about the findings, Danone nutritionist, Kellie O’Connor said: “It’s interesting to see that a huge proportion of those who claimed that they were “stressed all or most of the time” spend less than 15 minutes eating their main meal. Rushing food and in particular rushing your main meal of the day, can have an extremely detrimental effect on your digestive system. It’s important for people to realise that they can take simple steps to improve their digestive health and stress levels. Simply by being mindful of the food they eat and taking the time to enjoy every morsel, people can not only improve their digestion but their stress levels also.”

Jill McCarron, director of health affairs, Danone said: “The survey highlights that Irish people are under significant stress and pressure and this in turn can impact on digestive health. It is interesting to see people highlight specific digestive health issues which they feel are directly influenced by stress. The WGO, a federation of more than 100 national societies representing over 50,000 practitioners around the world, has just launched worldwide campaign called Love Your Tummy. The campaign, supported by Danone, aims to encourage people to improve their digestive wellbeing and to stop accepting digestive discomfort as normal. Based on these results it’s clear that managing stress levels is an important factor in reducing digestive health problems. With stress being highlighted as a key factor in people’s lives it’s also important that people take control of their digestive health to help minimise stress levels. By taking positive steps people can ensure digestive health problems are minimised, which is one less thing to worry about. I would also recommend that people visit the WGO website www.loveyourtummy.org for some simple tips about how they can improve their digestive health and have a positive impact on their overall wellbeing”.

Tips from the World Gastroenterology Organisation

Eat smaller and more frequent meals without increasing overall calorie intake. Do not miss breakfast; do not eat large meals late at night.

Include food rich in fibre, five portions of fruit and vegetable a day, including whole grains and vegetables.

Select lean meats such as chicken, turkey, rabbit…or lean cuts of beef, pork, or lamb.

Drink two litres of drinking water a day while decreasing intake of caffeinated alcoholic and sugar rich beverages.

Do not rush eating and chew food slowly and well.

Practice a healthy lifestyle; exercise regularly and abstain from smoking.

Maintain a healthy body mass index: aim to achieve your ideal body weight.

Consumer fermented dairy products, containing probiotics with proven benefits on digestive health.

Reduce intake of foods high in animal fat, greasy and fried foods.

Eat fish three to five times per week.

 

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