The Relationship between Stress and Gut Health

Have you ever experienced the queasy sensation in the stomach, the constant belching, or the runs when you are under stress? These are typical scenarios illustrating the relationship between our stress levels and gastrointestinal function. In TCM, we often refer to this as “Liver & Spleen/Stomach Disharmony”, meaning that the Qi in the liver is stagnant, while the Qi in the middle is deficient. This will often manifest as symptoms of fatigue, hypochondriac pain, nausea, belching, sighing, bloating, diarrhea, or epigastric/abdominal pain.

When we treat this disharmony, we usually focus on soothing the liver and replenishing the middle jiao, and most of the herbs we select are coincidentally strong adaptogens. Adaptogenic herbs function to help the body better adapt to environments that are stressful for the body and regulate homeostasis, and are commonly used in naturopathic remedies and western herbology.

In relation to TCM, most adaptogenic herbs are either middle Qi tonics or liver Qi regulators, such as chai hu (bupleurum), gui zhi (cinnamon twig), huang qi (astragalus), bai zhu (atractylodes), ling zhi (reishi), ren shen (ginseng), gan cao (licorice root), and wu wei zi (schisandra berry). Therefore, it is conclusive to say that, in order to better manage stress and prevent physical damage, it is crucial to keep your spleen/stomach happy and strong, while ensuring your liver Qi is continuously flowing unobstructedly!