There's a lot to be said for heeding the expression, "Stop your bellyaching." Stressful thoughts can wreak havoc with your gut. And an unhappy gut can cause emotional distress.

The Gut-Brain System

The gut wall has a complex system of nerves that travel through the spinal cord and communicate with the brain. It's a two-way gut-brain system that allows both the gut and the brain to initiate messages. Just as fretting over finances or worrying about work can trigger the fight-or-flight response that "tells" your digestive system to go out of whack, and a haywire digestive tract can "tell" your brain that you're feeling anxious or depressed.

In fact, some patients with digestive disorders are treated successfully with antidepressants or anti- anxiety medication, and some scientists suspect that antidepressants relieve depression by boosting the serotonin in the gut--not in the brain.

Evidence that the gut plays a role in our moods is mounting. A surprising 95 percent of gut-brain nerve fibers travel from the gut to the brain--not from the brain to the gut, as one might expect. Scientists experimenting on the vagus nerve, which connects the brain and digestive system, found that stimulating the nerve at different frequencies can cause different emotions.

To Settle Your Stomach, Manage Your Stress

While stress doesn't appear to cause most digestive disorders, it can interrupt the colon's normal contractions, causing queasiness, "butterflies," severe pain, diarrhea, constipation, and induce flare-ups in people who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease. Stress does cause indigestion.

Be good to your gut by being good to yourself. Take measures to reduce and avoid stress and to get a handle on your depression or anxiety. Consider meditating, practicing yoga, attending counseling sessions and support groups, relaxation training, exercising regularly, getting a full night's sleep and eliminating from your life whatever stressors you can. Even better, learn how to stop those stressors from getting under your skin! Focus on what's positive and enjoy.

To learn more visit HealthyMe or NDDIC.