How Stress Affects Your Gut Health

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It’s nearly impossible to avoid feeling stress. We have so many responsibilities and priorities that stress is practically guaranteed. If you’re the kind of person who avoids dealing with their stress, then think again. Constant stress has numerous effects on your body but let’s examine how it affects your digestive system and how serotonin plays a vital role.


Your Body on Stress

To begin, we need to explain the physiological responses to stress. In other words, what goes on in your body when you are in this anxious state.

The feeling of stress starts in your hypothalamus, “a tiny control tower in your brain” . This hormone triggers your “fight or flight” response. Causing your heart to race, muscles tension, and your breath to shorten. These physiological responses disturb your digestive system in a few ways like causing indigestion (because of an increase in stomach acid), constipation, and nausea. 

If you ever experienced a “gut feeling” or butterflies in your stomach, then you know what it’s like for stress to affect your stomach. 

The Gut is a Second Brain

But why do we feel these things in our stomach? Well, many researchers believe our gut is a second brain. They believe this because more neurons reside in the gut than in the entire spinal cord! Neurons are the fundamental units of the brain and nervous system so it makes sense why the gut is considered a second brain. Also, the brain and gut are in constant communication. So if you’re feeling stressed, your stomach is too! 


Here’s another unique feature about our guts that’s relative.

“The vast majority of serotonin is produced in the gut”

This is important since serotonin is a hormone that impacts our emotions and motor skills. In a balanced state of serotonin, you’ll feel; happier, calmer, more focused, less anxious, more emotionally stable. But when your serotonin levels are low, well you don’t feel good.


What to do When Feeling Stressed

So, how do you avoid feeling stress? You don’t! But there are some tips to manage your stress.

Yoga and Belly Breathing

We’ve talked about this before on the blog which you can read more about here! Essentially, in yoga, you match your breath to your movements. So, you are more aware of your breathing and even do belly breathing. This form of breathing triggers the “rest and digest” state, which is completely opposite to “fight and flight”.  

Good Mood Foods

Yes, there is such a thing as good mood food! These are various types of fruits, vegetables, and grains that contain vitamins and nutrients that have been shown to boost serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine! All good mood hormones and less stress!

Our personal favorite kinds of good mood foods are probiotics and prebiotics! Probiotics are foods with microorganisms supporting your immune system to fight off bacterial infections. Prebiotics are non-digestible foods (like fiber) that the good bacteria feeds off on. You can find out more about these in this blog post!

We want the good bacteria to thrive because they’re responsible for things like digestion, mood, and mental health. Also, let’s not forget our gut is responsible for producing serotonin. So, by taking care of your gut bacteria you’re taking care of your stress.

 Let’s Review

Stress is more than just a feeling. Constant and long-term stress may cause some serious effects on our gut. That’s because our brain and gut are in constant communication. So, we need to take care of both to take care of ourselves. 

Although stress is unavoidable, things like yoga, breathing techniques, and good mood foods can help manage your stress. 

If you want to start incorporating more prebiotics into your diet, check out this high-fiber recipe!

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