Ways To Prevent Stress And Anxiety From Affecting Gut Health

Ways To Prevent Stress And Anxiety From Affecting Gut Health

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

Stress and anxiety have a negative effect on your 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 brain and the digestive system are closely related

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.

Owing to this strong connection, we use the word “gut-feeling” and often experience anxiety-induced nausea.4

Experiments on lab mice show that exposure to stress leads to an overgrowth of certain types of bacteria and reduces microbial diversity in the large intestine of the stressed mice.5 6

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

A healthy diet can help you beat stress and anxiety

You are what you eat. Your diet determines your overall physical

and mental health and it is crucial that you consume foods that promote wellness. Fibrous foods aid digestion and keep your gut healthy. Seafood that is rich in omega-3s, all fresh fruits and vegetables can help you maintain digestive equilibrium and prevent stress and anxiety. Junk foods and fast foods mess with your gut and can cause stress. You can solve half the problem just by adopting a healthy diet.

2. Exercise Regularly

Regular exercise is important to keep stress and anxiety away

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

twice a week keeps your muscles and bones healthy.

3. Ensure Quality Sleep

Quality sleep is essential to avoid stress and anxiety

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

Probiotic foods are required to maintain gut bacteria balance and to prevent stress and anxiety

Consuming natural probiotic foods such as yogurt or taking probiotic

supplements can replenish the populations of good bacteria present in your digestive system. Ensure that your probiotic intake is one that provides several different targeted strains of bacteria that can survive the harsh stomach acids to penetrate deep within the GI tract, where they can thrive and work their magic. The absence of the beneficial bacteria creates an imbalance in your digestive system and results in many gut-related diseases.

5. Soil Your Hands

Contact with soil is necessary to promote good bacteria growth

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

plain water and natural soap to clean yourself.

6. Avoid Antibiotics

Avoiding antibiotics when not needed helps retain good gut bacteria

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.

7. Meditate

Meditation is a powerful tool to prevent stress and anxiety

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.