Stress & Gut Health: What You Don’t Know Could Hurt You
Your emotions have a big impact on your physical health. This means that the way you deal with any kind of stress, heart ache or trauma is just as important as what you do physically to support your health and wellbeing.
Research shows that one of the first areas to be effected when many people become stressed is "gut" health.
When you get sick in the stomach, feelings of nervousness, anxiety, fear or an overload of stress, the bacterial balance in your gut can be affected - impacting your overall physical wellness on many levels.
This phenomenon is nothing new, but in our modern area of glamorising over-productivity, it can be easy to ignore what our bodies are telling us so we can hustle more. Do more. Be more. And it stresses us out.
Keep reading to find out why there is a direct and important relationship between your levels of stress and emotional imbalance and your gut health.
And we'll reveal how you can support a healthy brain and belly with a few easy stress-reducing strategies.
Stress & Gut Health: What You Need to Know
Any emotion you feel impacts your health, right down to the cellular level. And the receptors in your gut (commonly referred to as your second brain) feel it most.
Stress, specifically, is not bad when it’s in balance: it can help you grow, become stronger, adapt and change for the better.
For instance, feeling stress about a test or exam can push a student to study and get a better mark. Being confronted by a difficult person can be stressful, but it can also motivate you stand up for yourself.
However, if a student is constantly stressed about school, and you are chronically having to confront that difficult person (or difficult people), stress can take a negative toll on your health. In addition to the documented prevalence of heart disease and cancer among the chronically stressed-out, your gut—one of the most important organ systems in your body—suffers.
Your Gut is the Key to Your Overall Health
Critically, your gut is the home of a relatively newly discovered organ, the mesentery: a contiguous set of tissues that connects your intestines to the wall of your abdominals.
In addition to helping your body store fat and provide nutrients to the intestines, it is thought that the mesentery could explain how certain diseases, like cancer, spread from one area of the body to the other.
So, keeping your gut healthy is about much more than supporting a healthy digestive process: your gut is the key to your overall health.
Stress & Bowel Health
Losing bowel control due to extreme stress is not uncommon. Stress causes contractions in the GI tract, and stimulates bowel movement. Conversely, it can also call constipation.
Here's how it works:
Your brain and your gut are synched up much more than you might think. Both are replete with nerves, and they talk back and forth constantly. When your brain signals stress, it causes spasms throughout your body. Some areas will release and some will contract. So, depending on the state of waste in your body and where it is, exactly, you could either experience diarrhoea, or you could become constipated.
Which you experience also depends on your gut-health default. Some people trend toward diarrhoea when they have gut issues, and some people, though comparatively fewer, become constipated.
If you have IBS or an inflammatory bowel disease (like Crohn's or ulcerative colitis), even minor stresses can make these issues worse since people with these diseases are already more prone to bowel upset and inflammation.
Stress At Play In Your Gut
Here's how it happens: you become stressed, and this causes a decrease in blood (and consequently, oxygen) flow in your gut. Hence, the cramping. This blood and oxygen deficiency also causes an imbalance of vital gut bacteria (because lack of nutrients kills the good bacteria) as well as inflammation—and chronic inflammation is the cause of a host of diseases, from degenerative wasting diseases to cancer.
Learn more: 5 Signs You Have Inflammation in Your Body
Your Checklist To Reduce Stress & Support a Healthier Gut
Sleep more. Prioritising sleep can help you fend off stress, since we are simply less likely to become stressed out when we are well-rested.
Eat well. Greasy, processed, additive-laden foods will not only mess out your gut, but when you're stressed, they're doubly dangerous. And since these are the foods we tend to crave when we are stressed out, since our bodies want high-fat, high-energy foods because they think we need to store up and move fast from some impending threat, it can be difficult to make this healthy decision.
So, spare yourself from having to make it. Have some healthy snacks on hand at all times, like Pulse Sacred Meal.
Here are some of the best foods for gut health:
- Leafy Greens
- Sweet Potatoes
- Whole Grains
Try Peppermint Oil. If you're already experiencing the negative effects of stress in your gut, add a drop of peppermint oil to your tea or water. Peppermint has been shown to help relieve stomach upset. Just make sure your peppermint oil is 100% pure essential oil and food grade. doTERRA oils are our go-to, made from the very best, purest plants and backed by the company.
Learn more: 6 Pure Essential Oils to Support Gut Health.
Drink lots of water. In addition to helping your body clear your body of inflammation-causing toxins, it also helps your body better carry nutrients to where they are needed. Drink up, and remember: only water counts as water. Home-made juice, tea and good quality coffee are great, but your recommended daily water intake can only be met by pure water.
Learn more: Water: Nature’s Best & Why It’s Critical to Life
Tolman Self Care.