Stress and Your Gut

I never feel like myself when I am stressed.  I am exhausted mentally and physically. I don’t digest properly, either.  A lot of times you hear people say when they are stressed they get an upset stomach or diarrhea.  The mind controls more of our gut and, visa versa, our gut controls more of our mind than we think it does.

As a dental hygienist, I remind my patients all the time that just because you go to an MD for your body and a DDS for your mouth doesn’t mean those 2 areas of the body are disconnected. Resent research has proven that the bacteria in the mouth has been linked to illnesses in the body-so why wouldn’t our minds have some sort of control over our digestion?

For example, when you have the flu, do you feel like working or studying and performing at peak?  No, your body is in a state of illness and is using all it’s energy to fuel our immune system to bring ourselves back to a state of health. Our mental energy is zapped and we cannot function optimally.

Experts say this is linked to something called the gut-brain axis.  According to Annals of Gastroenterology (Ann Gastroenterol. 2015 Apr-Jun; 28(2): 203–209.) it says that the “The gut-brain axis (GBA) consists of bidirectional communication between the central and the enteric nervous system, linking emotional and cognitive centers of the brain with peripheral intestinal functions. Recent advances in research have described the importance of gut microbiota in influencing these interactions.”

So my question is: is it our minds affecting our guts or the microbiota and gut environment affecting our minds?  In other words, what came first, the chicken or the egg?

I find that when I have more stress and anxiety, my stomach becomes upset. I have to be careful of what I eat and how I eat it. If I am in a good mood and relaxed I process things differently.  I don’t want to say that gut distress is all in our minds but it does have a lot to do with it.  The better outlook about what I put into my body, BEFORE I put it into my body, the better I will feel; a little like mind-over-matter.

So how do I destress?  Decompression time at the beginning and end of my day is key for me.  Exercise for me is one of the most important ways I prepare my body for the day. Circulating the blood and oxygen in the body helps to “detox” my organs, including the adrenals, which, when fatigued, can causes us to become tired, snappy, and grumpy, which in my case is true.  And at the end of my day I usually like to spend time with my husband, to watch a favorite show for 1 hour or read.

If it is hard for you to find a specific time during the day, find just a couple of minutes to just sit, without sound if possible, and take deep cleansing breaths, rolling your head down toward your chest slowly, stretching your limbs in all directions, including your hands and feet.  This short but cleansing movement and breath is great to rejuvenate mind and body and release stress. I would even suggest doing this prior to your meal before digging right in.  Also, eat slowly and enjoy each bite as you eat, allowing some digestion to happen first in the mouth so your gut doesn’t have to work so hard!

Wishing you a heathy and STRESS-FREE day!!

Jill

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Taken from Clingman’s Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee.

 

 

 

 

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