Health & Wellbeing

Can Your Gut Tell You’re Stressed?

Can Your Gut Tell You’re Stressed?

Stressed? In the fast-paced world that we live in, you are not alone. In fact, a Gallup poll showed that more than 40% of people experienced “a lot of stress” in 2022.1  While we often associate stress with its impact on our mental health, physical ramifications can extend to many areas of our body. For example, there is a growing understanding that stress influences gastrointestinal (GI) health. Growing research even suggests that the connection goes both ways, meaning our gastrointestinal health can impact our motivation and mood.2  With 35% to 70% of people suffering some kind of functional gastrointestinal disorder in their lifetime, understanding this gut-brain connection is vital in mitigating discomfort through lifestyle changes.3 

The Gut-Brain Axis:

The gut-brain axis (GBA) is the complex system of communication between the brain and gut.4  This connection transmits information between the brain and the gut, which can impact our emotional states and digestion. The brain directly impacts stomach sensations from nervous “butterflies” in the stomach to stress nausea.5 These sensations are testament to the link between the gut and brain. In fact, the gut is sometimes referred to as the “second brain” and has “the highest area of nerves outside of the brain”.6  

The Impact of Stress of the Gut:

When stress activates the “fight or flight” response, the body’s energy is redirected to immediate survival needs, often at the expense of non-essential bodily functions, like digestion.7 This can lead to various ramifications, including the sluggish movement of food through the digestive system because of slower contractions of the digestive muscles and less release of digestive fluids.8 If this stress response is triggered too frequently, the body can have a harder time recovering, impeding digestion and causing stomach pain.9  

Stress also impacts upon another important factor relating to gut health: the gut microbiome. The gut microbiome—the collection of gut bacteria, viruses, and fungi that cohabitate to create your gut ecosystem—also plays a big role in ensuring overall gut health.10 Stress can cause an imbalance in this ecosystem in various ways, including when the autonomic and circulatory systems carry distress signals to the gut and disrupt the microbiome.11 

There is no one agreed upon “healthy gut biome”, however, diversity in the ecosystem as well as a balanced composition are indications of a healthy gut.12  An imbalance in the gut microbial ecosystem—also known as “dysbiosis”—can have various negative ramifications, including altered food cravings, metabolism, stress reactivity, mood changes, and compromised immunity and overall health.13  

Managing the Connection:

If you are experiencing any ongoing gut pain, it is important to seek medical advice. However, by recognising the link between gut health, brain health, and stress, proactive steps can be taken to manage this connection. 

Exercise: Exercise is one of the most effective forms of stress release and can help manage stress and promote healthy digestion. It can improve hormone balance and stimulate endorphin release to help with digestion and mood.14 

Relaxation Techniques: Relaxation techniques, such as meditation and deep breathing can help alleviate stress and gut pain. In fact, hyperventilation and over breathing can cause bloating, gas, and discomfort from excess air.15 If these techniques are implemented when stress first occurs, the body’s response to stress can be retrained to promote healthier reactions to stress and may reduce stomach pain.16

Diet: Another vital element that influences GI health and the impact that stress has, is diet. Eating at regular intervals, without skipping meals can help alleviate symptoms of IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), acid reflux, constipation, and other negative outcomes.17 Likewise, drinking plenty of water is vital in supporting digestion and overall heath.18 Spending time speaking with a professional to help identify foods to support good gut health is also a must. Using over the counter GI focused products—such as Biorevive SilicolGel—may also help to alleviate symptoms. BioRevive Silicolgel is an oral gel that treats upper gastrointestinal disorders, forming a protective and soothing coating over the lining of the stomach and intestines to relieve heartburn, reflux and vomiting as well as relieving medically diagnosed IBS symptoms such as nausea, gas, abdominal pain, bowel discomfort and diarrhoea.19

Through making stress management a priority, adopting a gut-friendly lifestyle, and seeking professional guidance, steps can be taken improve wellbeing and achieve an equilibrium between mental and digestive health. 

Products Mentioned:

Biorevive SilicolGel

Sources:

https://news.gallup.com/poll/394025/world-unhappier-stressed-ever.aspx
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4367209/#:~:text=Abstract,brain%20with%20peripheral%20intestinal%20functions
https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/stress-and-the-sensitive-gut
https://caps.byu.edu/stress-and-the-digestive-system
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7213601/

Endnotes:

1https://news.gallup.com/poll/394025/world-unhappier-stressed-ever.aspx
2https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4367209/#:~:text=Abstract,brain%20with%20peripheral%20intestinal%20functions
3https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/stress-and-the-sensitive-gut
4https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4367209/#:~:text=Abstract,brain%20with%20peripheral%20intestinal%20functions
5https://caps.byu.edu/stress-and-the-digestive-system
6https://caps.byu.edu/stress-and-the-digestive-system
7https://caps.byu.edu/stress-and-the-digestive-system
8https://caps.byu.edu/stress-and-the-digestive-system
9https://caps.byu.edu/stress-and-the-digestive-system
10https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7213601/
11https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7213601/
12https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7213601/
13https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7213601/
14https://caps.byu.edu/stress-and-the-digestive-system
15https://caps.byu.edu/stress-and-the-digestive-system
16https://caps.byu.edu/stress-and-the-digestive-system
17https://caps.byu.edu/stress-and-the-digestive-system
18https://caps.byu.edu/stress-and-the-digestive-system
19https://www.health7.co.nz/shop/health-wellbeing/vitamins-supplements/biorevive-silicolgel-ibs-heartburn-relief#!description

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