How stress affects gut health

The gut and brain are connected via a system of nerves called the Enteric Nervous System and are, thus, constantly communicating with each other.

Published: 26th July 2020 05:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 25th July 2020 05:06 PM   |  A+A-

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Stress has a nearly instant effect on our gut and digestive system. This is why we are likely to experience spasms in the stomach when we are stressed, or butterflies when we are nervous.

The gut and brain are connected via a system of nerves called the Enteric Nervous System and are, thus, constantly communicating with each other. This is why the gut is also called the second brain. Anything that happens in our mind directly affects our gut and vice versa.

Impact of stress on gut functioning 

  1. Stress causes inflammation of the gut linings and increases intestinal permeability leading to leaky gut. This is at the core of most health issues we see today.

  2. It shifts the body from a state of ‘rest and digest’ to a state of ‘fight and flight’, thus, shutting down all digestive processes.

  3. It can alter the ratio of good and bad gut bacteria and lead to dysbiosis, thereby, dampening the immunity as 80 percent of it lies in the gut.

  4. It affects the production of hormones and neurotransmitters that are produced in the gut. A happy hormone called Serotonin is made in the gut.

  5. It can alter bowel movements and can either result in watery stools or constipation.

  6. Unmanaged stress can also result in behavioural changes when it comes to eating and make us binge, overeat or reach out for excess sugar, tea, coffee, and fattening and fried foods that can further damage the gut. 

Precautions one can take

Since stress is an inevitable part of life, the only precaution is to develop a better handle over it by adopting effective stress management techniques. Deep breathing, yoga, meditation, practicing gratitude, positive affirmations, visualisations, acceptance and letting go, sound therapy, and art are some of the best and most effective ways to manage stress levels on a day-to-day basis.

Stress delays the gut-healing process of your body. Therefore, such activities should be practised regularly to ensure that the gut isn’t affected by the stressors you may encounter.

Reverse the effects

  1. Maintain a good probiotic ratio in the gut. One can focus on the intake of probiotics as well as prebiotics. This replenishes the good bacteria and helps get rid of excess bad bacteria.

  2. Practice deep breathing. Deep breathing is the quickest way to calm down our mind and also the gut. It helps shift our body from a state of stress to a state of calm in just a few seconds.

  3. Add natural gut healers like pure cow ghee, coconut oil, omega 3 rich foods, L-glutamine, zinc, and selenium. Minerals such as zinc play a significant role in keeping intestinal lining healthy.

The author is a Mumbai-based holistic lifestyle coach—Integrative Medicine


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