Updated: Aug 22
Humans have a symbiotic relationship with bacteria. They live in our intestines and help digest food, protect against infection, and produce vitamins. This is called your microbiome. Everything from diet to sleep has an effect on the state of your microbiome. Here are some ways that stress impacts the health of your gut — and how you can manage stress to promote a healthier digestive system.
What is Stress?
Stress is a natural part of life, and most of the time, it has little impact on our health. However, when stress becomes chronic — lasting more than a few days — it can wreak havoc on our bodies. A stressful event activates the HPA axis, the part of our endocrine system that regulates the release of cortisol. This is the chemical in our bodies responsible for increasing blood sugar, releasing energy to help us deal with the event, and storing energy for later use. A high level of cortisol can cause digestive issues like irritable bowel syndrome and more serious conditions such as ulcers and even colitis. Other studies showed that stress and the resulting low-level cortisol release after can harm the beneficial bacteria in your gut. This damage can make you more susceptible to infections, including those that come from foodborne pathogens.
Importance of a Healthy Gut
The gut microbiome is a complex ecosystem made up of trillions of bacteria. It is essential to our health, providing us with vitamins and minerals, keeping harmful pathogens at bay, and protecting our immune systems. While there are many things you can do to keep your gut healthy, it is important to note that this system is easily disrupted by environmental factors, medication like painkillers and antibiotics, and including stress. When you experience stress, your body releases cortisol, which signals to the digestive system to slow down and secrete less acid. This can lead to an increase in bacteria in your gut and make you more susceptible to gastrointestinal diseases, like inflammatory bowel disease. The microbiome is also important for the break down (digestion) and absorption of nutrients from the foods you eat. If the microbiome is damaged, food will not be digested properly, it will ferment and can lead to bloating, diarrhea, and other digestive issues.
Also, about 80% of Serotonin, the happiness hormone, is produced in the gut. If the gut is not healthy, this will affect your mood, increasing your risk of depression and anxiety. Now our team provides preventive medicine in Dubai.
How Stress Can Harm Your Gut
As we’ve discussed, stress can affect the microbiome in a negative way. In addition, chronic stress can also decrease the number of beneficial bacteria in your gut. This can have serious effects on your health and is one of the reasons why stress management is so important. While these changes to your microbiome may seem small, they can have a huge impact on your health. An unbalanced microbiome can lead to increased risk of infection and malnutrition, as well as negative effects on your mental state.
Stress activates your sympathetic nervous system. Your vagus nerve (part of the parasympathetic nervous system) is the brain nerve that connects and regulates your digestion, and this nerve is antagonized by stress. This is also a reason why stress will affect your gut.
Diet and Digestive Issues Caused by Stress
Stress can also cause you to crave certain foods, which can have a negative detrimental impact on your digestive system. When you are stressed, you crave usually more sugar and energy rich food. This can alter the bacterial balance in your gut and lead to overgrowth of fungus (mostly Candida) that can cause gas, bloating, brain fog and rashes. Get help from Traditional Chinese Medicine in Dubai, to solve all your ailments.
Everything from diet to sleep has an effect on your microbiome. When you are experiencing high levels of stress, it is essential to make healthier lifestyle choices in order to protect your microbiome. Avoid processed foods, and eat healthy, whole foods. Focus on more on plant-based proteins and good fats, consider taking a probiotic or a Glutamine and zinc containing supplement, depending on the symptoms you are experiencing. And most importantly, practice stress management.
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