Stress and emotions have an enormous impact on your gut health. If you need a practical example of this, think about this – when you are nervous, where do you feel it? The answer is usually in your stomach or gut. Butterflies in your tummy are just one example of how a thought or emotion can directly impact your gut health. Let’s take a look at how it works.
STRESS DOWN-REGULATES DIGESTION
When you’re stressed, you’re in ‘fight or flight’. In this state, your body is geared for survival only, and all of the energy in the body is filtered into your muscles to run or fight, and your brain to think about how you’re going to survive.
The opposite of this is called ‘feeding and fornicating’ or ‘rest and digest’ and this is where we can easily digest our food and absorb the nutrients that we need to thrive.
When we are stressed and in chronic low-grade flight or fight, it leads to a chronic reduction of our enzymes and acids needed to digest food. For example, when you are stressed your proton pumps in the gut that produce your hydrochloric acid can stop producing acid, leading to low stomach acid and the maldigestion of minerals and proteins.
More stress = less ability to digest your food.
STRESS AND THE MICROBIOME
We know from research that when you are stressed it can damage your microbiome and lead to a decrease in the numbers and diversity of your gut bacteria. As we discuss in Episode 14 of The Shift Podcast, your bacteria can even become used to stress and create an environment that sets you up to be more sensitive to stress over time.
HOW DO I KNOW IF I AM STRESSED?
Stress is an interesting thing – sometimes it is really obvious that you’re under stress or pressure, but other times it can be more subtle. Some signs that you are impacted by stress include…
- Feeling anxious or overwhelmed
- Sleep issues – trouble falling asleep or waking up during the night
- Increases in mouth ulcers, cold sores or immune issues
WHAT CAN I DO TO MANAGE STRESS?
The first step to managing your stress is, to be honest about where you are at and if you can modify your lifestyle right now. A lot of the time our stress is self-imposed – taking on too much, saying yes to everything or simply structuring our days and weeks in a way that is not beneficial to our self-care.
We need to create space in our lives to rest and process stress. Our emotional health also plays into this, when we are carrying around stuck emotions or past trauma, it will create stress and turmoil for us, further adding to our loads. Seeing an emotional wellness practitioner may help with this, such as a hypnotherapist, kinesiologist or another emotional wellness practitioner. This type of work is a core part of what we do to help our patients at Shift.
Our Shift naturopaths help patients deal with stress by prescribing herbal adaptogens, anti-anxiety herbs and nervous system tonics that help to change your stress response, leading to an increased feeling of calm and control. Your diet can also play a role – what you eat can have a profound impact on how you feel and your stress response day today.
Lastly, meditation is a clinically proven and timeless tool to help you deal with stress. There are many easy to use apps, online videos and other free resources that you can access to help you on your meditation journey.
Need help to cope with stress? Book an appointment with a shift naturopath or emotional wellness expert and we will help you cope with stress and provide strategies for change that will improve your whole health.