In a fast-paced world with lots of pressure and unreasonable deadlines, stress is inevitable. We are constantly trying to achieve one thing or the other and there is hardly enough time to do enough. Over time, we accept that as a way of life.
The problem is no matter how we try to underplay its effect, such lifestyle that characterizes the 21st century has a remarkable effect on our health. The mental effect is what we generally refer to as stress.
In a simpler term, stress can be viewed as the heightened sense of urgency, anxiety, and fear.
It includes the so-called adrenalin rush that is necessary for some situations. Persistent stress is very detrimental to health in a number of ways. Merely thinking about life's obligations has landed many in critical condition.
Anything that can increase stress level like insufficient rest, lack of relaxation, overtraining, poor diet, etc. can have an impact in different areas of your life.
In this article, we are going to be particular about the impact of stress on one’s system; the digestive system, otherwise known as the gut. There have been scientific inquiries into how stress affects the gut and they all suggest that stress can really wreak havoc in the gut system.
The good news is, with a proper understanding of how stress affects your gut health, you should be able to manage it and experience a healthier life. Before we delve fully into how stress affects the gastrointestinal system, it is important to understand the gut system.
About The Gut
The gut consists of the track that leads from the mouth to the anus. It encompasses the major organ that is in charge of digestion and is generally referred to as the digestive system. The cells of the gut system do not work alone.
In the digestive process, there are enzymes and microbes that play a significant role to bring about efficient digestion and absorption of food substances. This process is vital for life to go on.
Among the microbial population in your gut, some are good while others are bad. A healthy gut contains about 85% good bacterial and 15% of bad ones. The roles of the good microorganisms are not limited to digestion.
They support the immune system, improve mental clarity, promote nutrient absorption, regulate glucose level, support healthy gut barrier, balance your hormones, and regulate the activities of pathogens. These may seem much, but it is the reality.
The brain controls every aspect of the body, but there is a direct relationship between the gut which is why stress has such impact on gut health. The intestinal mucosa is infiltrated by a network of nerve fibers known as the myenteric plexus.
The connection with the brain has a strong and immediate impact on the gut system which explains why it is so easy for the brain to control the gut.
The connection between the brain and the gut has long been established. It has also been established that there is a relationship between the skin, gut, and mental health. It has been found out that the relationship is actually not a one-way thing.
While chronic stress has been found to change the diversity of microflora in the gut, a healthy gut system with friendly microbes can also have a remarkable impact on mental health and general well-being.
Impact Of Stress On The Gut System
The major and immediate impact of stress is that it affects the homeostasis of an organism and will trigger some adaptive responses to ensure stability and survival of the organism. Stress can be chronic or acute, and both can always affect the gut.
Stress-induced responses in the gut often result in depletion of the microbial population. In most instances, there is an overgrowth of certain microbes to the detriment of others. Overall, the diversity of the microbial population is greatly reduced.
This can be traced to the biochemical changes that happen as a result of stress. The problem doesn't end there. The gut is quite vulnerable in other ways including changes in gastric secretion, gut mortality, mucosal permeability and barrier function failure, visceral sensitivity, and mucosal blood flow.
Over time, chronic stress can result in some real gastrointestinal problems. Some diseases of the gut that can result from stress include:
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
- Peptic Ulcer Disease
- And other common digestive problems like constipation and diarrhoea.
Manage Stress To Improve Your Gut Health
The good news is that stress can be managed. There are different activities one can commit to managing stress. For the benefits of gut health, we will look at few things to consider so as to have a healthier and better life:
Improve Your Diet
Diet may not seem like the best thing to focus on when talking about stress. The truth is that your diet has a significant role to play in your overall health. It fuels the foundation for overall health and is particularly essential for gut health.
The food you eat and the ones you choose to avoid will also have a significant impact on the microbial population in your gut system. It is essential to eat a balanced diet and avoid food that causes trouble to your gastrointestinal system.
Get Involved In Physical Activities
Exercise is essential for general well-being and it is also particularly important for gut health. It has been found that microbiomes are healthier and more diverse in sporty people and those that are physically active.
It is important, therefore, to make movement a priority in your life. Physical activities are also very essential in addressing stress, so get out every once in a while to play and enjoy the numerous benefits.
Get Enough Sleep
There are several quotes from motivational speakers and coaches encouraging people to sleep less in order to make more money. While there might be a sense of what they are preaching, it is important to stress that sacrificing sleep has a lot of negative impact in different areas of your life.
You need enough sleep to be in the right frame of mind and make the right decisions.
A good sleep is also a good way to manage stress and you need not just quality sleep but plenty of it. Research has also confirmed that sleep is beneficial to your gut microbes. A quality 7 – 9 hours of sleep per night is not a bad idea.
Don't Be Too Afraid Of Dirt
You need to be clean and avoid unhealthy bacteria as much as possible, but that doesn't mean you should take this to an unhealthy level. It has been found out that exposure to little dirt and bacteria can actually be beneficial to your health.
The bacteria from soil are known to cause less problem but train the immune system to work better; so it is advisable that you do a little gardening if you can. You can also play with your pet more.
Reduce The Intake Of Antibiotics
We have grown too used to the idea of fighting infections that antibiotics are the best selling drugs. While they can be beneficial in many instances, you have to avoid them whenever you can.
They can deplete the population of healthy bacteria in your gut and compromise the system. Make sure it is really necessary before taking antibiotics.
Stress has a lot of impact on your overall health but the impact on gut health is very direct and devastating. By reducing stress and adopting some lifestyle changes, you can greatly improve your digestive health which is essential for your general well-being.