You’ve probably read that reducing stress in your life can improve your health in many ways, including the health of your digestive system. But here’s the exciting thing: it works the other way around, too. Improving gut health can actually help make you feel less stressed in the first place. Exciting, right? It may sound odd, but it’s 100 percent true. Here’s how.
(For those who can’t wait to get to the bottom of things, here is a teaser: Join us this November for a special event at Green Mountain focusing on gut health.)
The Gut-Brain Connection
The gut and the brain “talk” to each other in profound ways. It’s a complex system of nerves, hormones, the immune system, and the collection of bacteria and other microbes in your large intestine known as the “gut microbiome”.
Health experts have known for decades that our brains and mental health impact the gut. Just think about how stress can give you stomach cramps or nausea, or how it can worsen digestive complaints like IBS. But the latest research shows that it also works the other way around and the health of your gut microbiome can also impact how stressed you are.
How Good Gut Bacteria Impacts Stress
Have you ever met someone who gets super stressed out at the smallest things? That may mean that their bodies have a pretty low “threshold” for kicking off the “stress response”—the flood of hormones like adrenaline that shoot through you when you feel anxious or threatened. This stress point is determined by lots of factors, including genetics and life experiences. And guess what else? Your gut microbiome!
The more balanced your gut, the more it takes for your stress response to “pop off,” research shows. Several recent studies conducted in Ireland and England suggest that individuals supplemented with a variety of beneficial bacteria show lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol in reaction to difficult situations. These folks also felt less bothered and paid less attention to whatever the upsetting or tough situation was.
“Improving gut health can actually help you feel less stressed in the first place”
What You Can Do
As a culture, we are more stressed-out than ever. The 2017 annual Stress in America Survey found that three-quarters of us—more than ever in the history of the survey—experience anger, anxiety, and sleeplessness because of stress. One in five people say the amount of stress they experience on a regular basis is extreme (a rating of 8, 9, or 10 on the 10-point scale). The survey found that people use everything from listening to music to exercising to meditation to help manage their stress. Supporting gut health can be one more important tool.
Gut health science is complicated and constantly evolving, but we know that there are few fairly simple steps anyone can take to improve the balance of their gut microbiome right now:
- A nutritious way of eating, with plenty of fiber from produce and whole grains
- Regular movement and exercise
- Adding fermented foods to the diet such as kefir, yogurt, kim chi, and miso
Want to know more about gut health?
Join us this November 4-10, 2018 for Gut Health Wellness Week at Green Mountain at Fox Run! It’s the perfect setting to dive more deeply into this fascinating and important topic with special classes focusing on the foundations of gut health and the microbiome and cooking demonstrations with gut-supporting foods and recipes.
The week will be full of practical strategies you can bring home to build better gut health one day at a time.
We hope to see you there!