Gastric nerves - Enteric nervous system & how it works

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Gastric nerves & The enteric nervous system - The control center of your stomach

The gastric nerves hold the reins of digestion: From the movements of the stomach to the secretion of the gastric juice - every single stomach activity is subject to their direction and control. Although this ensures the smoothest possible digestive process in the stomach it can also have negative consequences: If the gastric nerves are irritated, hypersensitive or the nerve highways to our brains are disturbed, this can be expressed in some indigestion. How can you balance your stomach nerves? And how exactly do they work?

The task of the stomach nerves

During digestion the stomach has some extremely important functions: It not only intakes the chewed food from the oesophagus but also mixes it with gastric juice it self-produces and passes the prepared chyme in a controlled manner to the intestine. The gastric nerves are there to ensure that these perfectly coordinated tasks run as smoothly as possible. They run through the entire stomach and keep the processes in balance. 

The gastric nerves do not act completely independently: they are a part of the so-called enteric nervous system which controls all processes in the gastrointestinal tract and pervades our entire digestive system with control centres. 

The enteric nervous system comprises approximately as many nerve cells as the human spinal cord. This fact, along with its ability to process stimuli independently and issue specific commands independently of our brains has given it a second name: the gut-brain. But our psyche can have an influence  on the gastrointestinal tract- for example the excitement before an upcoming test can trigger a rumbling in the stomach, or our annoyance with our partner can spoil our appetite and ruin the romantic dinner we had planned. 

The enteric nervous system is also influenced by the autonomic nervous system (ANS) which pervades the whole body: 

  • The sympathetic part (SNS) reduces the secretion of gastric juice and inhibits the movements of the stomach. 
  • The parasympathetic part (PSNS) stimulates blood circulation and gastric juice secretion and activates gastric motility. 

Depending on the situation the influence of one area predominates. For example in a stress situation the functions of the stomach may be imbalanced.

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Are your stomach nerves hypersensitive? - Symptoms and triggers

If the gastric nerves get out of balance this usually does not go unnoticed. It can often result in unpleasant symptoms: 

  • Fullness and / or stomach pressure 
  • Nausea 
  • Stomach pain 
  • Flatulence 
  • Heartburn 

The symptoms may be caused by an irritation of the stomach nerves or a disturbance of the impulse transmission which changes their reaction to digestive stimuli by reacting more strongly to external digestive stimuli 

But why do the stomach nerves get irritated? There are many triggers for this: 

  • Stress 
  • Hustle and worry in everyday life 
  • Excitement 
  • An existing irritable stomach 
  • Diet 
  • The consumption of stimulants such as alcohol, coffee or nicotine 

All these factors can contribute to the stomach nerves getting out of step. Sufferers then get to experience the typical symptoms.

When stress hits the stomach

Stomach complaints are often triggered by psychological stress factors.  

In order to understand what happens in this respect it is necessary to look at stress in a differentiated way, since there are different kinds of stress and perception of this is highly individual.  

Since frequent and/or prolonged stress may not only affect the stomach, but can generally put physical and mental strain on the whole body, it is always worth taking action against it. Identify your personal stress factors - only those who know their opponents can fight them. Some people are stressed by inactivity, while others suffer from too many to-dos. The next step would be to think about strategies: positive thinking, mindfulness, breathing exercises and better sleep.  

To prevent the irritated stomach nerves from becoming an additional stress factor, symptomatic therapy is also recommended - there are remedies that can calm the stomach nerves quickly and effectively.

A man dressed in white t-shirt, seen only from hip to shoulder, suffering from stomach pain.

What problems can arise?

A nervous stomach, also called irritable stomach is a gastrointestinal disorder, with the following typical symptoms

  • Abdominal cramps 

    Spasmodic or colic-like stomach pain without specified localization 

  • Nausea

    Urgent feeling of need to vomit but vomit does not actually occur 

  • Stomach pain 

    Stomach pain feels very different depending on the cause. It is usually located on the left side of the trunk, approximately under the diaphragm. 

  • Abdominal pain 

    Pain localized below the sternum, pain localized in the upper abdomen 

  • Bloating 

    Feeling of congestion of food without relation to prior food intake which could explain this feeling 

  • Abdominal Pressure 

    Pressure in the abdomen. Depending on how sensitive the stomach nerves are, it can feel like a strong feeling of fullness or it can be associated with severe pain

How to calm your stomach nerves

To get rid of the annoying symptoms it is necessary to balance the stomach nerves. If organic diseases trigger the complaints they should be treated accordingly. If no organic cause can be identified, it is probable that an irritable stomach or an irritable bowel syndrome will be diagnosed by the physician. Both are functional disorders, without an underlying organic disease. Often, remedies with herbal ingredients are used for treatment.

Additionally, living and eating habits may often play a decisive role and trigger symptoms. Accordingly, you can achieve a lot by changing the habits that cause your personal discomfort. For example, you can reduce stress or avoid foods which were shown to trigger symptoms.

Iberogast® combines the effects of nine different medicinal plants in one medication - and can thusly help - besides other beneficial effects in the GI tract - to soothe the sensitive stomach nerves: The stomach movements can normalize and relieve the unpleasant symptoms.

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Digestion is hard work

If your digestion gets out of hand, indigestion may be the result. Learn how your digestion works, what the causes of problems may be and how you can stimulate a healthy digestion with a few simple methods. 

Learn more

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Disturbances in the gastrointestinal tract are usually not only extremely unpleasant and associated with numerous complaints, they often make a normal everyday life even harder. It’s good that there is Iberogast®: The combination of nine medicinal plants targets both the underlying causes and the annoying symptoms.


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