Stress and Ulcers
Stress and the body's response to it, can lead to all sorts of health problems and diseases. When the body experiences a stressful event, such as the loss of a job, a fight with a loved one, money conflicts, or health problems, it kicks into a more intense level of functioning. This increase is called the "fight or flight" response and it allows the body to function at a higher level in order to weather the stressful event.
Although this response in necessary in short-term situations, prolonged stress forces the body to function on high at all times which leads to unnecessary wear and tear on vital organs. This response can also lead to the worsening of stomach ulcers.
Stomach Ulcers and StressWhen the body is functioning under stress it directs more oxygen and nutrients to the more vital organs of the body. The heart, lungs, and major muscle groups function on high, where as smaller, less necessary organs, such as the stomach, are forced to function on less than adequate necessities.
When the digestive tract is slowed during periods of stress more gastric acid is allowed to build up in the stomach. An increase in stomach acid can further irritate an already present ulcer. Under these conditions the ulcer can become more inflamed and the symptoms associated with the ulcer, such as abdominal pain, will worsen. Chronic stress can also lead to increased stomach lining erosion, which further increases the severity of ulcer conditions.
Stressful situations can also cause the sufferer to overeat or not eat at all. When a person with an ulcer overeats the stomach is forced to produce more acid to aid in digestion. This increase in acid can further irritate a stomach ulcer. The same is true if the person is too worried to eat at all. Stomach acid is still produced even if the stomach is empty. In this case, the acid will not have any food to break down so the extra acid attacks the stomach lining instead.
Since uncontrolled stress can easily make ulcer symptoms worse, many patients are advised to reduce the amount of stress experienced in their daily lives.
Treating Stress and UlcersThe first step in controlling ulcer symptoms associated with stress is to reduce the levels of stress experienced on a daily basis. Start by reorganizing your daily schedule and eliminating the items that cause stress or force you to be in a constant hurry. Next, rework the schedule to allow time for relaxation and enjoyment between periods of stress, hard work, or too much activity.
Next on your daily schedule should be a place for exercise. Exercise increases overall body health and helps the body reduce levels of stress hormones present in the blood stream. Find an activity that you enjoy so that you will be more likely to stick to the program and schedule time for it everyday in order to keep stress at bay.
Then, make sure that you schedule quit time at least once a week to give your body a chance to recuperate form the stresses of life. Take an hour each week to read a book, relax with a friend, get a massage, or take your dog for a walk. A solid hour of free time that you protect from worries will go along way in reducing the amount of stress hormones circulating in your body.
Finally, try to change your eating habits during times of stress. No matter how well you prepare there will always be times when you are faced with stress. By having a plan in place before stress happens you can avoid overeating or meal skipping when the time comes. Strive to eat three small, nutritious meals each day, and attempt to consume them at about the same time each day. Also, make sure that you have stomach healthy snack on hand if the urge to munch is overwhelming. Good snack ideas include fruits that are low in acid (such as watermelon, and peaches), healthy grains (such as whole wheat bread and brown rice), and fresh vegetables. While stress cannot be avoided altogether, you can control how your body reacts to it. By protecting yourself against the harmful affects of stress you can help control the severity of your stomach ulcer.