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How Stress Affects Your Gut Health


By Columnist Ange Sinclair – Founder of Digestive Detective:


Stress is a product of our environment
Photo Credit: Jason Paris, March 8, 2015: Stress is a Product of Our Environment

Hippocrates said, “All disease begins in the gut.” Stress is a cause of many illnesses as it creates physiological changes in our bodies. For instance, our body reverts back to its primitive instincts when stressed. Should it fight or should it flee? This instinct sets about a chain reaction. When you’re under stress your blood pressure goes up, your heart beats faster. Your body shunts blood away from your digestive area and into your arms and legs so you can be ready to flee or fight.

Stress, Your Body and Gut Health

When put under stress, then your body reacts in certain ways. Some of the most common reactions that you will encounter when stressed include the following:

  • Food digestion stops, so you get decreased nutrient absorption.
  • Oxygenation decreases due to blood rushing to your extremities.
  • Metabolism slows because there is less blood flow to the area.
  • Enzymes don’t work as efficiently because they need the co-factors from the absorption of foods.
  • Mucous membrane in your gastrointestinal system can’t regenerate properly.
  • Digestive secretions change.
  • Pain levels increase in your digestive organs.
  • Gut bacteria levels drop which then has a knock-on effect on the neurotransmitters – serotonin and GABA levels fluctuate in your gut and affect anxiety levels and your mood.
  • Motility alters, which can increase the overgrowth of bacteria that can lead to conditions like SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) or leaky gut.
  • Inflammation occurs in the digestive area if you become chronically stressed.
  • The functions of the immune system lower.

Acute stress is unavoidable in our modern world, but ongoing chronic stress is much more prevalent today than ever before. Chronic stress can lead to gastrointestinal diseases, such as IBS, IBD, and food allergies, along with reflux disease (GORD) and peptic ulcers.

Reducing Stress on Your Body and Gut Health

So how can you avoid these problems? Well, there are some ways that you can cut or lessen the impact of stress on your system. These are as follows:

1. Include stress reducing practices into your daily life. The most common forms of practices are prayer, meditation, and yoga, as well as relaxation techniques, dancing, and gardening. Others also like painting and deep breathing.

2. Increase your amount of physical activity. Exercise can stimulate endorphins, it relieves tension and can improve your mood pretty quickly.

3. Be mindful of what you are putting in your mouth.  Eat foods that serve and nourish your body. Whole foods and good quality protein sources are ideal, as are fresh fruit and vegetables, nuts and seeds and good fats.

4. Add fermented foods into your diet.  These foods can change the pH of the environment in your gut and lead to better conditions for good gut bacteria.  They are inexpensive and easy to make at home.  Some good examples are sauerkraut, Kim Chi, kefir, plain yoghurt, kefir and beet kvass. Try including one serve daily to your diet.

5. Ensure you are getting enough down time in your life.  Find things that are fun and include them daily to your activity.  Sleep is also important here. Experiment with going to bed earlier, shutting your screens down and spending time low-stress activities. Colouring in, reading and talking with your loved ones are perfect.

Stress is inevitable, so take small steps daily to ensure that it stays at a manageable level. Your body will  thank you for this.

About Our Digestive News and Review Columnist – Ange Sinclair

AngeAnge Sinclair, founder of Digestive Detective is a Naturopath, Nutritionist and Herbalist. She has a special interest in Digestive Disorders. She helps you beat the bloat, purge your pain and find the root cause of your problem using nutrition, herbal medicine and supplements.

Visit Ange’s website to take her quiz to see if you are ready to change your health, or connect on FacebookInstagram or Twitter.

Disclaimer: The information published in this column are the author’s professional knowledge and opinion. This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment of any manner. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding any medical condition and consult a qualified medical professional before beginning any nutritional program or exercise program. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on InShape News.

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