Stress and Gut Function

The sayings ‘I have a gut feeling’ and ‘butterflies in my stomach’ don’t come from nowhere. Our gut-brain axis is a very powerful thing indeed. 

Your gut feels stress, anxiety and sadness; just like your brain feels unsettled when your gut isn’t well. The motility, hormone secretion and even bacterial gene expression in your gut can be altered by brain signals, with serotonin (the ‘happy hormone’) being a key modulator of the axis. Alongside this important axis, the ‘stress’ hormone cortisol actually directly effects our metabolism, with the uptake of glucose in our intestine being altered under the presence of cortisol – how crazy is that!

Unfortunately, even though we know all of this, no food is ‘magical’ and I am not here to tell you that eating 5 bowls of spinach or a pizza a day is going to cure all of your stress-related symptoms.

Instead, there are a few handy tips and tricks that you can use to relax your brain and you gut, aiding your digestion and subsequently mental wellbeing during times of stress and anxiety: 

EAT WITHOUT DISTRACTION: Focusing on what you are eating and the proper chewing of food will help your gut out a considerable amount and make its job a lot easier!
EAT MORE FIBRE: short chain fatty acids produced from complex carbohydrate break down are one of the key mediators in gut-brain communication and improved bacterial diversity! 
EAT THE RAINBOW: By increasing the range of foods you are eating, you support variation in your gut bacteria which in turn supports a healthy and happy gut and prevents dysbiosis that is linked with altered communication. 
EXERCISE: All types of exercise have been associated with lower burdens of mental health, especially when playing team sports. Also, exercise positively influences your gut bacteria diversity = happy gut. 
MINDFULNESS: Practising to be present in the moment and not fixating on past or future stresses is being found to reduce stress and IBS symptoms.
LISTEN to your body and your gut. Listen to signals of hunger and satiety. Listen to your mind. Take a break. Don’t work yourself up about things you cannot control.  

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