Metaphorically speaking, stress and anxiety can cause butterflies in your stomach. In reality, your digestive system can be adversely affected by stress and anxiety.
Poor diet, erratic lifestyle and lack of exercise together increase your level of stress. Overtraining, lack of sleep, or absence of pleasure in your daily life are also other contributors. Stress causes cortisol (hormone released during stress) dysregulation and subsequent weight gain, sleep problems, and even a reduction in life span.
How Stress Affects The Digestive System
Various studies have shown that chronic stress negatively affects the healthy bacteria in your gut, which has a depressing effect on your body. Stress is a broad term that refers to any real or perceived threat to the homeostasis of an organism, inducing adaptive responses to help maintain internal stability and ensure survival.1
Your gut is especially vulnerable to the presence of chronic and acute stress, resulting in stress-induced changes in gastric secretion, mucosal blood flow, visceral sensitivity, gut motility, mucosal permeability and barrier function.2 Evidence also suggests that gut microbiota may respond directly to stress-related host signals.3
The Brain-Gut Connection
The intestinal mucosa is infiltrated by the myenteric plexus (a network of nerve fibers and neuron cell bodies) that are influenced by signals from the brain. Since your gut is an integral part of the nervous system, the brain has a huge impact on the gut function.
Chronic exposure to stress may lead to the development of a variety of gastrointestinal diseases like IBS, IBD, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), peptic ulcer disease, and various food allergies.7 Experiments reveal that psychological stress slows normal small intestinal transit time, promotes overgrowth of bacteria, and even compromises the intestinal barrier.8 Chronic stress has a direct impact on the development of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) and leaky gut syndrome.
How To Prevent Stress And Anxiety From Affecting Your Gut Health
The best way to prevent stress and anxiety from interfering and ruining your digestive system is to address the root cause of the problem. Instead of trying to manipulate your gut, here are some effective methods to prevent anxiety and stress.
1. Adopt A Healthy Diet
You are what you eat. Your diet determines your overall physical
2. Exercise Regularly
The importance of regular exercises cannot be neglected. An all round fitness regime that fits into your daily schedule can solve the other half of the problem. So, a healthy diet combined with regular exercise should be your priority if you want to beat stress and anxiety. Once this is taken care of, your digestive system will automatically recuperate. Allocate time for exercise either in the mornings or evenings. Hit the gym or work out at home. Jogging or brisk walking
3. Ensure Quality Sleep
Sleep has a profound effect on our entire system. Without proper sleep, you’ll soon turn into a nervous wreck. When a healthy diet and regular exercise are in place, sleep will automatically follow. Exercise and diet influence your sleep patterns and affect your mood. Ensure that you sleep for at least eight hours and take power naps whenever you feel the need. Quality sleep rejuvenates your body and mind and prepares you to deal with all that life throws at you. Since alcohol, smoking, and other stimulants can affect sleep quality, avoid these as much as possible.
4. Consume Probiotic Foods
Consuming natural probiotic foods such as yogurt or taking probiotic
5. Soil Your Hands
Without a doubt, cleanliness is important for your health. But, some people take it to the extremes and completely avoid contact with dirt. Hand sanitizers and hand washes that contain strong chemicals destroy even the bacteria that are good for you. This is collateral damage. Instead, do some gardening or play in the soil, or go camping and expose yourself to the beneficial bacteria. The microbes found in the soil train your immune system to work efficiently. After you’re done, use
6. Avoid Antibiotics
These days, most doctors rampantly prescribe antibiotics even for the common cold and fever, though it may not be necessary. Your body’s immune system is strong enough to fight off foreign bodies that threaten your health. Constant consumption of antibiotics, especially when unnecessary, can ruin your immunity level and lead to your dependency on antibiotics. Antibiotics, just like the strong chemicals in most soaps and sanitizers, eliminate even the good bacteria along with the harmful ones, leaving you vulnerable to infections and diseases.
This is one practice that will do a world of good for you. An ancient practice that has its origins in India, meditation is a powerful tool to enhance the quality of your life. It is usually preceded by a deep breathing session, which helps balance the life force or the breath. Deep breathing followed by a 15-minute meditation is extremely effective in dissolving stress and anxiety. Deep breathing cleanses your system and enriches your blood with fresh oxygen. Meditation calms your mind and helps you relax even during tense situations.
|↑1||Konturek, Peter C., T. Brzozowski, and S. J. Konturek. “Stress and the gut: pathophysiology, clinical consequences, diagnostic approach and treatment options.”
|↑2||Konturek, Peter C., T. Brzozowski, and S. J. Konturek. “Stress and the gut: pathophysiology, clinical consequences, diagnostic approach and treatment options.” J Physiol Pharmacol 62, no. 6 (2011): 591-9.|
|↑3||Lyte, Mark, Lucy Vulchanova, and David R. Brown. “Stress at the intestinal surface: catecholamines and mucosa–bacteria interactions.” Cell and tissue research 343, no. 1 (2011): 23-32.|
|↑4||Mayer, Emeran A., Bruce Naliboff, and Julie Munakata. “The evolving neurobiology of gut feelings.” Progress in brain research 122 (2000): 195-208.|
|↑5||Bailey, Michael T., Scot E. Dowd, Nicola MA Parry, Jeffrey D. Galley, David B. Schauer, and Mark Lyte. “Stressor exposure disrupts commensal microbial populations in the intestines and leads to increased colonization by Citrobacter rodentium.” Infection and immunity 78, no. 4 (2010): 1509-1519.|
|↑6||Bailey, Michael T., Scot E. Dowd, Jeffrey D. Galley, Amy R. Hufnagle, Rebecca G. Allen, and Mark Lyte. “Exposure to a social stressor alters the structure of the intestinal microbiota: implications for stressor-induced immunomodulation.” Brain, behavior, and immunity 25, no. 3 (2011): 397-407.|
|↑7||Konturek, Peter C., T.
|↑8||Bowe, Whitney P., and Alan C. Logan. “Acne vulgaris, probiotics and the gut-brain-skin axis-back to the future?.” Gut pathogens 3, no. 1 (2011): 1.|