The gut is deeply interlinked to the brain. This is why most people feel nauseated or have bowel problems when tense or anxious. Experts are of the opinion that IBS or irritable bowel syndrome is connected to stress and anxiety. (1) Stress has become part of everyday life, but it may be causing considerable damage to your gut, too. While probiotic supplements can help balance gut flora and support gut health, stress can present a host of other gut challenges. Here’s a deeper look into the link between your gut and stress.
The Stress-Gut Connection
The brain has a direct connection to the stomach through a complex neural network—the enteric nervous system. This brain-gut connection is appropriately referred to as the ‘gut-brain axis.’ (2) The bacteria in the gut, collectively known as the microbiome, also produces the “happiness chemical” serotonin. If your gut microbiome is healthy and balanced, it helps minimize the negative effects of stress. During times of stress, the brain sends signals to our body to release chemicals such as adrenaline, serotonin, and the stress hormone called cortisol. But high levels of stress can make these chemicals enter the digestive tract, weaken the gut (even contributing to increased intestinal permeability, leading to leaky gut), and thereby cause adverse reactions.
Since around 80% of a person’s immune system is located within the gut, these bacteria have significant control over the mind and body. The microbiome also acts as a barrier in the stomach to regulate digestive processes, including the release of enzymes for breaking down food. It also helps categorize nutrients to be absorbed into the bloodstream and harmful elements that need to be kept at bay.
When you experience high-stress levels, cortisol levels rise and the brain automatically goes into a fight-or-flight mode instead of focusing on the usual digestive functions. This stress response directly impacts the blood flow to the gut and affects functions like heartbeat, blood pressure, and breathing. This is why people often feel elevated heart rates and quickened breathing under duress. Such physical reactions, in turn, impair the digestive system and can even lead to a decreased flow of blood and oxygen to your gut.
Panic or stress before a big event may seem normal, but if this pattern continues, developing into chronic stress, it can wreak havoc on the digestive system. The situation gets even worse for those with chronic fatigue or anxiety, poor lifestyle, and related problems. The common symptoms of stress affecting your gut include indigestion, abdominal pain/stomach cramps, constipation or diarrhea, headaches, and weight loss/gain. However, these seemingly common issues, if left untreated, can develop into more serious health problems such as IBS, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and even peptic ulcers.
Do Gut Issues Contribute to Increasing Your Stress Level?
Stress plays an important role in gut health and vice versa. Experts have found that changes in the microbiome also affect the mind and can considerably impact your reaction to stress and behavioral patterns. (3) Alterations to the healthy balance of gut bacteria can lead to an overreaction in the immune system, thereby causing an inflammatory response in the gastrointestinal tract. This then can contribute to mental health issues like anxiety and depression. (4)
A study looking at “subjects with morbid obesity showed a wide range of associations between the faecal microbial markers and psychobiological comorbidity [the presence of multiple disorders in an individual], and thus confirmed the important gut-brain interaction.” (5)
Considering this strong connection between mental and gut health, it becomes imperative for people to keep both stress levels and gut health in control.
Tips for Stress Reduction and Gut Health Support
Getting regular moderate amounts of exercise is an easy and effective way to keep your stress level low and your digestive system working well. Exercising improves blood flow as well as microbial diversity and composition. It also helps release endorphins from your brain to reduce stress and improve your mood. So, find a physical activity that you like, and stick to it.
Add a Probiotic Supplement to Your Diet
Probiotics are good bacteria that help improve your gut health, but the number of probiotics you can derive from foods like yogurt may not be enough. Consult your health care practitioner, and add an effective supplement to your daily diet. This will help maintain the population of beneficial bacteria in your gut and also promote mental health. LoveBug Probiotics’ supplements have proprietary blends of friendly bacterial strains that are designed to meet the gut needs of people of all ages based on individual needs.
Make the Right Food Choices
Ditch all processed, sugary, and fatty junk from your diet and replace with fresh vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lean meat. Prebiotic foods like apples, bananas, and onions eaten regularly can also help probiotics thrive in your GI tract and help you reap more benefits out of your probiotic supplements.
Manage Your Time Better
Most of our stress levels today get elevated because of the need to juggle multiple tasks and meet deadlines. Just a bit of planning to manage your time better can go a long way in reducing stress and anxiety. Learning to say “no” to things that you might not be able to manage, taking short breaks, not procrastinating, and engaging in meditative practices like deep breathing and yoga can also be of immense help.
Support Your Body and Reduce Your Stress Today
If you have been experiencing gastrointestinal problems without any obvious physical reason, your stress level may be playing a role. Seek medical advice and take steps to combat your stress to maintain a healthy gut.
LoveBug Probiotics’ supplements are formulated with a patented time-release protection system to ensure that maximum bacteria actually reach the target area. In fact, this BIO-tract technology gives the tablets 15 times more survivability than standard capsules on the market. Stress has a detrimental impact on your gut, well-being, and overall health. Give your gut some much-needed support by taking these necessary steps and adding probiotics to your diet.
- “Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).” Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Accessed March 2019. https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/related-illnesses/irritable-bowel-syndrome-ibs.
- Carabotti, Marilia, Annunziata Scirocco, Maria Antonietta Maselli, and Carola Severia. “The gut-brain axis: interactions between enteric microbiota, central and enteric nervous system.”Ann Gastroenterol 28, no. 2 (2015): 203-209. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4367209/.
- Clapp, Megan, Nadia Aurora, Lindsey Herrera, Manisha Bhatia, Emily Wilen, and Sarah Wakefield. “Gut microbiota’s effect on mental health: The gut-brain axis.” Clinics and practice 7, no. 4 (2017): 987. doi: 10.4081/cp.2017.987.
- Harvard Health Publishing. “The gut-brain connection.” Accessed March 2019. https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/the-gut-brain-connection.
- Farup PG, Valeur J. “Faecal Microbial Markers and Psychobiological Disorders in Subjects with Morbid Obesity. A Cross-Sectional Study.” Behav Sci (Basel) 8, no. 10 (2018): pii: E89. doi: 10.3390/bs8100089.