How Stress Affects Your Gut

Stress can manifest itself in many ways in our bodies. However, one of the most uncomfortable ways is how it impacts our gut. From stomachaches to diarrhea, nausea, and even ulcers, stress plays a huge role in our gut health. This is why it is very important to understand how stress affects your gut and how to combat it. 

How Stress Affects Your Gut

How Stress Affects Your Gut

What Is In Your Gut?

The gut is home to a complex and delicate ecosystem of hundreds of types of bacteria. This is known as the “the gut microbiome” or “gut flora.” These bacteria help with digestion, and can even protect the digestive tract from infection. Your gut flora are also part of keeping your brain functioning efficiently! It is essential to maintain the balance of this ecosystem since it does so much for your body. Eating nutrient-rich, whole foods is the best way to help your gut microbiome flourish. When you eat too much junk, it can actually kill off the good bacteria. This allows the bad kinds take over and wreak havoc. Taking too many prescription or OTC medications can also negatively impact your gut bacteria. Your doctor can discuss with you the possibilities of probiotics and/or prebiotics if you need to be on medication.

Now that we know what is in your gut, let’s talk about how stress affects your gut.

Stress Can Affect Your Appetite

Many of us eat differently when we are stressed. Some eat more, and some eat less. However, either way, you are impacting your gut health.

Stress Eating

Stress eating can result in an increase in junk food, which is not good for you. Sugars, carbs, and overindulgence are very detrimental to the natural bacteria ecosystem found in the gut. Too much stress eating can lead to leaky gut, fatty liver, weight gain, and more.

Not Eating

Eating much less or nothing at all is also bad for your gut. When you do not get enough nutrients, your gut sends signals to your brain. These signals tell your brain to put the body in “starvation mode.” When the body does this, your metabolism will slow, and your blood sugar will go way down. This can lead to even more stress from crankiness and can also cause unhealthy weight fluctuations.

Stress Can Affect Your Digestion

Being stressed out can lead to bloating, indigestion, heartburn, and nausea/vomiting. This is because of the intricate communication system that we have between our brains and our gut. The gut actually has more neurons than the spinal cord! These neurons and how they communicate has led many scientists to refer to the gut as the body’s second brain. Stress affects your gut and digestion by decreasing oxygen and blood flow to the gut, and causing many issues. These issues can include nausea, vomiting, ulcers, gas, acid reflux, leaky gut, bloating, chronic inflammation, and much more.

Stress Can Affect Your Bowels

Just like in animals, our stool is often one of many indicators of our health and mental state. Too much stress can throw your bowels completely off balance because it does two different things. It both slows down your digestion AND speeds up fluid release and movements. This can make your days even more stressful and frustrating due to repeated trips to the restroom. Chronic stress can lead to many issues like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), constipation, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, diarrhea, and more!

As you can see, stress can hugely impact your gut health! It is crucial to find ways to destress, as well as regularly visit with your primary care provider (PCP). This will help you determine your specific needs and how you can meet them. Always discuss diet changes or dietary supplements with your PCP before you move forward or self-diagnose. I hope this information helps you make the right steps toward a happy, healthy gut!

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