Updated: Oct 3, 2019
Are you damaging your gut health from allowing stress to get the better of you? As a single mum to two special needs kids, chronic stress is just a part of my daily life. I've learned to cope and compensate for it, but for many Mums these days trying to balance it all, we are becoming increasingly weighted down by stress and conditions such as depression and anxiety. Chasing Wonder Woman status sadly takes a toll on our well-being.
It's a scary fact that 70% to 75% of all human disease and infection begins in the gut due to problems with the function and health of the gastrointestinal and digestive systems. The relationship between stress and anxiety, and a poor digestive system is well-known to holistic health professionals and increasingly recognised by medical doctors.
There is no "maybe" about the link of stress and gut health.
High levels of stress can negatively affect the digestive process, just think about the last time you had to speak in public? As you were headed to the stage, you probably experienced some level of stress. What physical area of your body did that stress reveal itself? Bet it was that "butterflies in your stomach" sensation, often accompanied by feelings of nausea and dizziness.
This is because when your brain becomes severely stressed, an automatic tsunami of hormones are released. One of these hormones is CRH (corticotropin-releasing hormone). It is linked to the "fight or flight" stress response, and one of its primary jobs is to turn off the appetite. This explains why you might not be able to eat much when you experience high levels of stress.
However, CRH also releases steroids which trigger contrary reactions that can actually make you hungry. Talk about a mixed bag. This is why some people combat stress with a tub of ice cream or a supremo pizza with all the fixings. Receiving conflicting hormonal signals, your digestion system doesn't stand a chance. How can it possible know how to respond!
But wait, that's not all. There is also the hormone serotonin to consider. Over 95% of serotonin is found in the digestive tract. How is this linked to stress? Serotonin is the feel good hormone, and is largely responsible for how you feel. When your brain short circuits on stress, your serotonin levels react as well. As I mentioned above, most of your serotonin is produced in the gut. Stress cranks up your serotonin production, which in turn kicks up the chaos in your digestive system.
Short-term, irregular and infrequent stress periods may just cause a tummy ache or nausea. However, prolonged stress can lead to aggravated chronic diseases such as heartburn, irritable bowel syndrome and other unhealthy conditions.
Belly Loving Smoothie
Eating plenty of whole foods that naturally nurture, repair and strengthen your gut lining goes a long way in helping you feel better when chronic stress is unavoidable. Here's a fantastic list of 10 gut friendly foods to start with, click here. I also recommended that you boost your gut health with pre-probiotics and probiotics. I love to add them to my smoothies if I am in a rush or forgotten to take them at bedtime.
1-2 cups full-fat coconut milk or almond milk
2 cups kale
2 cups spinach
2 frozen bananas, cut into chunks
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1/2 tablespoon chia or flax seeds
1/2 tablespoon bee pollen
1 tablespoon hemp hearts
1 tablespoon raw honey or manuka honey
2 tablespoons collagen protein or whey protein
Place all ingredients in a blender and blend on high until smooth (about 2–3 minutes). Serve over ice.
This superfood smoothie recipe is from fellow doctor of Natural Medicine and Nutritionist, Dr Josh Axe, and is one of his all time favorite recipes to soothe the gut. All the wholesome ingredients work together to make a creamy drink that’ll satisfy your taste buds while soothing your gut and it couldn’t be more simple to make.
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