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How Does Stress Affect the Gut?
Have you ever wondered why your brain and gut seem linked? After all, when anxious, most of us experience butterflies in the stomach. These sensations are a result of something known as the gut-brain axis, which is essential to the functioning of a healthy body. Below, we look at how stress affects the gut and explain why it’s important to adapt your lifestyle accordingly.
What is the gut-brain axis?
Fundamental to answering the question - how does stress affect the gut? - is understanding the gut-brain axis. Simply, it’s the term used to describe the communication network that exists between your brain and your gut. There are around 100 billion neurons in the brain and 500 million in the gut. These are connected via the central nervous system, with the vagus nerve playing a leading role as it sends important signals in both directions. In animal studies, stress has been shown to inhibit the vagus nerve’s ability to send signals, resulting in a range of gastrointestinal issues.
Studies have also found that digestive disorders such as IBS can be exacerbated by stress and other mood disorders. What’s more, stress and depression can increase the permeability of your gut, leading to a condition known as ‘leaky gut.’ Essentially, this allows bacteria to enter its circulation and produce an inflammatory response. As such, trying to alleviate your stress levels is important if you’re to successfully improve the health of your gut.
The importance of alleviating stress
Stress affects all systems of the body in so many ways and is particularly damaging to your overall health and wellbeing. In other words, if you let stress overpower you, it will be difficult to live a long and healthy life. When it comes to the gut specifically, you’re much more likely to suffer from symptoms relating to IBS and experience difficulty when it comes to maintaining regular bowel movements. What’s more, given the relationship between gut health and the functioning of your immune system, you are more susceptible to various infections and diseases if you don’t try and manage your stress.
How to manage your stress levels
Thankfully, there are numerous ways to reduce your stress levels and improve your gut and general health and wellbeing. Increasing your physical activity, following a healthier diet, and practising self-care are all excellent things to try if stress is getting the better of you. You may even benefit from practising mindfulness meditation, which helps you focus on the present moment and detach yourself from the various stresses of everyday life. What’s more, mindfulness training can also improve symptoms of poor gut health.
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Our Gut Health Supplement contains a live bacteria that has evidence for improving gut health from >60 clinical studies. By optimising your gut health, you may benefit overall well-being from belly to brain.