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How stress messes with your gut and 10 ways to relax

Updated: Aug 9, 2020

Image by Ryan McGuire from Pixabay

Chronic stress is a sad fact of our daily lives and its impact on gut health cannot be underestimated. In conditions such as SIBO, IBS and other gut problems it is a common trigger of your condition and can be a driver of continued digestive issues.

If you find that you are not recovering as quickly as you had expected from any gut condition it may be that stress is driving your symptoms and keeping you from getting well.

What stress can do to your digestive system

Here are just some of the ways that stress can impact your gut:

  1. Immune function goes down so you are less able to kill off unwanted nasties that you may inadvertently ingest. Among other things, this can include bad bacteria that can give you Bali belly and other gastro-type infections, or parasites, such as Blastocystis hominis, Giardia lamblia or Dientamoeba fragilis. If you suspect you have a parasite contact me and I can organise testing for you.

Photo by Elena Mozhvilo on Unsplash

  1. Stress can cause leaky gut where the lining of the digestive system becomes too permeable, causing inflammation, compromising gut flora balance and allowing unwanted food particles and other substances to enter the blood stream.

  2. The body diverts energy from the digestive system to other areas of the body as it perceives itself to be under threat. Digestion becomes low priority, making it difficult for you to break down and digest food properly. You can suffer reflux, gas and bloating as a result.

  3. Reduced digestive function slows motility so you might suffer constipation. You are more likely to suffer conditions like SIBO as undigested food can sit in the gut for too long and encourage bacterial overgrowth.

  4. In an action called the migrating motor complex (MMC), bacteria is naturally swept through the system regularly. MMC function is reduced with stress and bacteria can start to proliferate, and result in SIBO.

  5. You can also suffer diarrhoea as a result of stress. If food is moving too quickly through your system, you may not be absorbing all the goodness from your food.

So managing your stress is a vital component of any gut healing plan.

10 Ways to reduce stress

Photo by Willian Justen de Vasconcellos on Unsplash

Here are 10 great ways you can manage your stress and calm your nervous system:

  1. Get into a good routine of regular meal times and bed times.

  2. Make sure you eat breakfast within one hour of waking.

  3. Include plenty of protein in your breakfast of around 20-30 g. This could be: one serving of protein powder, three eggs, a palm-sized portion of meat or fish, one 240 g can of beans or 150 g tofu.

  4. Meditate for 15 mins as soon as you wake up.

  5. Exercise for at least 20 mins every day, even if it is just a 20 min brisk walk or a little yoga.

  6. Keep coffee intake to a maximum of 2 shots per day.

  7. Spend at least 20 minutes outdoors every day, preferably in the morning.

  8. Minimise 'stressful' TV programs such as the news, action movies or violent programs. If you want to watch them, turn them off at least half an hour before you go to bed.

  9. Do anything you love doing that gets you in the zone e.g reading, running, yoga, listening to music, drawing, painting, writing, cooking or other creative activities.

  10. Practice relaxing breathing 2-3 times per day. Try breathing in through your nose for 3 counts, holding for 3 counts and breathing out for your mouth slowly for 5 counts.

Photo by Max van den Oetelaar on Unsplash

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