Stress and Digestion – 3 Tips For Managing Stress to Improve Digestion

by Jordan Reasoner

I don’t think about the night my Father died very often… it still hurts too much.

He had a massive heart attack on a cold night in December 2007…

And I was the one who found him.

He was already gone.

I remember screaming.


Police and fire.

Shaking uncontrollably.

The Medical Examiner.



and then it got quiet again.

That’s when I had the most horrific diarrhea session I’ve ever experienced. It was more violent than any stomach virus or food poisoning imaginable…

My body was out-of-control and I could hardly get a hold of myself.

That’s the first time I realized the incredible power that stress has over my body… and started my quest to better manage stress and the digestive system.

If you want to heal your gut and control the symptoms of digestive disease – you have to get a handle on the stress and digestion in your life… or it will undermine all the work you’re doing following the Specific Carbohydrate Diet and using supplementation to take control of your health.

Stress Used to Keep Us Alive…

Stress is about more than just being stuck in traffic or fighting with a spouse over bills.

Stress causes a natural physiological (chemical) response in the body with the core purpose of keeping us alive. In fact, this “fight or flight” chemical response used to save our ancestors every day while they roamed the earth dodging Saber-Tooth Tigers and Woolly Mammoths.

During stress, the Adrenal Glands release the “stress hormones” cortisol, epinephrine, and norepenephine.

Why is that important?

These chemicals put our body into a state of “Flight or Fight,” which was great for our ancestors. It gave them a short burst of heightened awareness and the energy to stay alive no matter what threat they were up against.

Here’s the problem: now we roam the earth well protected in safe cars, safe homes, and comfy work places… not running from Woolly Mammoths.

Short bursts of life or death stress like our ancestors experienced are rare in today’s world, unless you get mugged or something.

The majority of the stress we experience in today’s world is the chronic form – things like not getting enough sleep, going to work, family issues, health issues, not having enough money… and unfortunately the body can’t distinguish threat levels like our government.

Our body responds with a “code red” and activates the “Fight or Flight” response just like it’s programmed.

So physiologically, as soon as you roll out of bed, your body is acting like you’re running from saber-tooth tigers all day.

It’s just not good for us.

Chronic stress keeps cortisol levels high and disrupts the body’s natural 24-hour cortisol rhythm that rises and falls throughout the day.

Not only that, but elevated cortisol:

  • Raises blood sugar
  • Suppresses Immune function and healing
  • Promotes leaky gut syndrome
  • Causes hormone imbalance
  • Increases depression and anxiety
  • Altered digestive motility processes

The bottom line: chronic stress really messes with your body… especially the digestive system.

Properly managing stress can help you improve your digestion. That’s why I’m going to focus on managing stress in your life… so you can keep working on controlling stress and the digestive system preventing you from living a symptom-free life.

But Managing Stress and Digestion is Tricky

Here are three tips for managing stress to improve digestion. Pick one of these three things and test it for the next seven days…

1) Quit the news cold turkey

Before I get into the complex stuff I want to share the number one thing that helped me manage stress and the digestive system in my life.

I STOPPED reading, watching, and getting sucked into the news.

Try it for 7 days and see how you feel.

(I’ve heard that on average, 14 out of 15 news stories are negative.)

Don’t worry, you’ll still find out what’s going on in the world from friends and co-workers… without being exposed to the negativity and stress that you’ll find on the news most days.

Doing just that one thing for the next 7 days will likely have a dramatic impact on the stress you feel throughout the day.

2) Meditation

I’ve practiced meditation over the years and I used to think that it reduced my stress. But it was more indirect than that.

Meditation increased my awareness of the present moment and allowed me to experience more joy in my daily life.

If you’re just starting out I would recommend Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book Wherever You Go There You Are.

I’ve been very impressed with his work in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, which combines both Meditation and Yoga to improve physical and emotional health. You can learn more about his methods in another of his books, Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain and Illness.

3 ) Cultivate Your Social Life

Staying cooped up inside the house can actually make you sicker and increase the impact stress has on your body.

A 1995 Cleveland Clinic study that says, “Social support appeared to play an important role in moderating the effects of pain, functional limitation and even depression on the subject’s quality of life.”

Also, a 2003 PNEC study found that, “Social interactions buffer against stress and they promote wound healing. And the data implies that social isolation impairs wound healing.”

So how does your social life tie in to all of this?

It has everything to do with the Oxytocin that gets released in response to both physical contact and social behavior.

Oxytocin can suppress your body’s reaction to stress.

It improves your immune system and your ability to heal because it decreases the impact of cortisol during “Fight or Flight” stress response, which is crucial during the inflammatory stage of healing.

So, the takeaway point here is: get out of the house and have some fun with friends and family…

Not only will it help you manage stress, but it will help you heal your digestive problems.

So, call your friend and make some time to catch a movie… or take your Mom out for a walk. It matters…

Managing Stress is Just as Important as Diet…

If you want to heal your gut and control the symptoms of digestive disease, you have to learn how to manage the stress in your life.

Stress will undermine all the work you’re doing following the Specific Carbohydrate Diet and using supplementation to take control of your health.

Make stress management just as important as the other areas you’re working on.


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About the author

Jordan Reasoner Jordan Reasoner is a health engineer and author. He was diagnosed with celiac disease in 2007 and almost gave up hope when a gluten-free diet didn’t work. Since then, he transformed his health using the SCD Diet and started to help others naturally heal stomach problems. You can check out his story here and find him on Google+, Facebook or Twitter.

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{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

The Center for Connection, Healing & Change November 18, 2016 at 1:10 am

Yes, absolutely right. Stress management is an important like diet because stress can cause a lot of diseases. So, it becomes essential for everyone to learn how to manage stress in his/her life.

tsmmi September 7, 2016 at 8:02 pm

i.have a lot of stress like to where im.having stomach pains indegestion headaches nausea constipation and diarrhea and food doesn’t like me because of this……would this be a good diet to start and do meditation too??????

Mariel Heiss September 8, 2016 at 4:33 pm

Tommy – sorry to hear you’re so stressed! gEtting that stress under control is the most important step. Try an epsom salt bath:

Ruth W November 8, 2015 at 2:25 am

I was reading the Stress and Digestion – 3 Tips for managing stress to improve digestion and came across the “Makeover Your Morning” course, which had my name all over it! I definitely need to check it out and put into my life. I clicked on it twice and got a “Problem loading page” message. Is there another way or place to find this information?

Thanks for the information on your web site.

Have a great day.

Mariel Heiss November 9, 2015 at 2:19 pm

Hi Ruth – we’re really sorry but those videos were affected to a hack we had a while ago. We’re working hard to get them working again.

Thanks for your patience and understanding.

Rebecca August 18, 2015 at 5:24 pm

Jordan. The “Join the stress challenge here” does not connect to anything! Can you help us?
Thank you

Mariel Heiss August 18, 2015 at 6:42 pm

Hi Rebecca, I’m really sorry but this program was affected by a hack we experienced a while back, and we’re still trying to get things sorted out.

We hope to have the program up and running again ASAP!

Thanks for your patience and understanding. In the meantime, you might check out these article:

Heidi December 19, 2014 at 9:22 am

I really like how you broke it all down, and organized it into groups and included links. This issue is much more complicated than most realize. Thank you Jordan. Beautifully done.

Richard Maxwell December 18, 2014 at 2:10 pm

Great stuff!

boost October 5, 2014 at 4:20 pm

I coulkd not refrain from commenting. Perfectly

sorelle September 4, 2014 at 4:52 am

Good day i have IBS and i have changed my diet on my own before seeing your website. However i stull get tummy cramps and pains. i have had gastroscopes and colonoscopys done and they have not found anything to be concerned about. I however always worry and think it may be something more serious. Help me

Brent Kovacs September 4, 2014 at 4:17 pm

Hi Sorelle,

Thanks for reaching out! We suggest starting SCD from the intro and giving the diet at least 30 days to see how you feel. You can find our eBook here:

Best wishes!

Jenny Sherwell December 3, 2013 at 5:58 pm

I have come off my medication and am using the SCD diet to overcome GERD, oesphagitis and Asthma symptoms. . . day 8 and so far so good.
I am keen to reduce the stress im my life and make time to have fun. I find at the moment that I am not coping well with the negativity, tension and stress of the people around me. I do love the idea of managing health and lifestyle holistically.
Thanks so much for sharing Jordan

Jenny Sherwell December 3, 2013 at 2:59 pm

Reducing stress levels makes sense to me.I would like to try it

julie November 9, 2013 at 4:01 pm

How exactly does stress cause leaky gut? What happens on the tissue level to make holes in the intestines? Thanks for helping me understand.

Linda March 21, 2013 at 11:18 am

I am just beginning the Intro diet and have not yet bought the books since I want to see how this goes. I was wondering if vitamins are okay to use? My preference is to use either a very good multivitmin/mineral, or to just take a vitamin C supplement(500-1,000 mg) and a vitamin D3 supplement (1,000 IU) once a day, but at different times of the day. If not, when can I return taking these supplements?

geraldine o donnell January 10, 2013 at 4:12 pm

would like to try the stress reduction challenge

k shivakanth nayak August 16, 2012 at 2:20 am

thanks for the good advice, i am going to try it out. i am more convinced now about the major part relaxation plays in one’s digestion and general health.

Rebecca October 23, 2011 at 6:33 pm

These are really good practical tips!
And so sorry for the loss of your dad…especially in such a traumatizing way. I am sure that event has changed you. Thank you for sharing.

Jordan Reasoner October 24, 2011 at 2:47 pm

@ Rebecca,

Thanks I really appreciate that, it means alot!

Maureen October 13, 2011 at 4:25 pm

Thanks for this article. I have seen how much stress plays a role in with all of my symptoms. When I first started the diet I was feeling so much better that I wanted to run out and do all of the things that I wasn’t able to do before. Unfortunately, I am realizing that I still need to put my health first and trying to do too much while still trying to heal my system has been causing too much stress. So I am going to work on being patient and give my body time to heal without added stress.