Social media is more popular than ever, and while it does allow us to stay better connected with one another, social platforms are also one of the largest providers of stress. Individual social media posts often only focus on the positive, which can cause stress for users who see how “happy or “accomplished” everyone else appears to be in life, and social media can also provide a platform for dissenting opinions and arguments (which you probably saw enough of after the election).
Even if we are fully aware that social media can be a source of stress in our lives, we may not truly understand how this stress can cause physical issues with our body. Gastrointestinal experts believe that the stress of social media can actually have a negative effect on our gut health and related bodily systems. We explain why this is the general belief in today’s blog.
Social Media, Stress and Your Gut
Our gut health helps to control a number of systems in our body, and if we are stressed, this can actually have a physical effect on our gut health. For example, one of the most common ways that stress can affect our daily lives is in the form of interrupted sleep. Social media stress can cause you to toss and turn, and even the artificial light emitted from our smartphones can prevent our body’s natural release of melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone that is naturally released by the body to help us fall asleep, so if our body isn’t releasing it properly, we have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep.
Poor sleep and added stress can influence the production of other hormones as well. When you are feeling stressed, it is because of a spike in the presence of a hormone called cortisol. If you have extra levels of cortisol in your body, it can impact a number of different bodily functions, including causing:
- Upset stomach
- Bowel irregularities
- Increased stomach acid production
- Acid reflux and heartburn
Food Choices & Weight Gain
Another way that social media can affect our gut is through our food choices and weight gain. How many times have you found yourself finishing a meal or snacking on the couch while you’re mindlessly scrolling through Facebook or Instagram? It may seem harmless, but not only can the stress of social media lead you to make poorer food choices like fatty foods that can upset the stomach, but it can also distract you from realizing that you are full or that you don’t need to eat anymore. Or, maybe you’re scrolling Facebook and you see a tasty dessert or a mouthwatering appetizer recipe that tricks your brain into thinking you’re hungry and need to eat. It may sound odd, but it’s similar to grocery shopping on an empty stomach, which studies have shown can lead to unhealthy food selections. You may not be thinking about food until you see someone’s meal on Instagram, and next thing you know you’re headed to the kitchen yourself. Weight gain and unhealthy snacking can hurt your gut health, and social media can influence these factors.
At the end of the day, our gut and our brain are closely connected, and if our brains are being stressed by what we’re consuming on social media, it can have an impact on our gut and physical health. So while we’re not saying you need to delete your social apps, we are asking you to at least be aware of how social media consumption could be affecting your health. And if you are experiencing gut distress or another GI issue, reach out to Dr. Bhatti and his team of experts today.