Stress and Your Gut

Did you know that stress can be really damaging for your gut? So much so that even if you are eating nutrient-dense whole foods, you can become nutrient deficient.

Your body is capable of dealing with stress. However, only in small doses. Its designed to help us get out of dangerous situations and get to safety, i.e. your ‘fight or flight’ response. However, in today’s modern world we often face daily situations that put us into that state of panic. For example, work, relationships, busy schedules and so on. When we are constantly fretting about things in our everyday life we can end suffering from chronic (long-term) stress. This long-term stress can have serious impacts on our body over time including our digestive system.

When we are stressed, our gut receives a message to take blood and send it to our brain and limbs (fight or flight). In serious cases, our gut can fully shut down. The reduction of blood flow in the gut can have some serious consequences. It can affect how nutrients are absorbed from our food and it can lower our immune defences. It also depletes our vitamin stores. As I said before, our bodies are capable of dealing with this for short stints. However, if you are constantly stressed, imagine what this can do to your body over time. Hence why you can be nutrient deficient, even if you are eating well. The nutrients aren’t being absorbed from your food. This can lead to being tired, struggling with our skin, poor hair health and weak nails, as well as some more serious complications.

Constant stress can also alter the state of your gut bacteria, your microbiome. We spoke in a previous post how important these little guys are. When they are altered it can cause inflammation, infections, sleep deprivation and poor concentration. Which is ironic when you think about it. We get stressed at work because we have so much to do but then the stress causes us to be even less productive. Definition of a vicious cycle, am I right?

We also have this amazing connection between our gut and our brain called our gut -brain axis. This is basically a two-way message system. When our gut is in a state of stress it sends messages to our brain which can affect your mood, memory, learning, anxiety and depression.

Ever heard of serotonin? Serotonin is our motivational, feel good hormone. 90% of serotonin is made in your gut. But obviously, if your gut has decided to shut down, then it’s not being made. This, again, is not going to be helpful in making us feel good. Lowered serotonin levels can also influence our mood, behaviour, appetite, sleep and memory.

So, overall, stress is bad!

But here’s the amazing thing….you don’t have to be constantly stressed. Yes our lives are busy and hectic and crazy but there are simple things we can do everyday to help us be a little calmer and switch off that ‘fight or flight’ response. I’ve listed some simple things you can try daily to help manage your stress levels:

  • Meditation
  • Going to bed at a decent hour
  • Breathing exercises
  • Journaling
  • Positive affirmations
  • Exercise
  • Fresh air
  • Natural light

Try and give one or two of them a go!

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