We all know by now that being under stress day after day ain’t good for us. Our bodies are built for short, sudden bursts of stress like running away from sabre-tooth tigers, not for the near-constant, low-level stress that is modern life in the 21st century: work deadlines, office politics, school exams, extended families, the list goes on.
But how does stress effect the gut in particular? If you’re struggling with gut-related health issues, should stress-relief be on your radar? And is it even possible to be less stressed in this day and age, or is it just an unavoidable fact of life?
The Gut-Brain Connection
On some level, we all realize a link between our emotions and how our gut feels. Common phrases reflect that link: ‘I had a feeling in my gut.’ ‘It was a gnawing sensation in my stomach…’
These instinctive feelings come from a place of deep, inner intelligence and help us to avoid nasty situations.
The gut is an integral part of the nervous system, connected to the brain by intricate nerve pathways and neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine.
Scientific studies are now providing firm evidence that problems in our gut are linked to psychiatric issues like autism, anxiety, depression and schizophrenia.
For more info check out Brain Health Begins In the Gut and Hack Your Gut Brain Connection To Beat The Blues
The Stress Effect
When we live with constant stress, it begins to eat away at the lining of our gut – quite literally. Living with stress or letting stress get to us can lead to a multitude of gut-related problems, such as:
• Increased food intolerances
• constipation or diarrhea
• acid reflux, also known as gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD)
• leaky gut, where undigested proteins and other bacterial toxins make their way through the intestinal wall into the body.
• peptic ulcer disease
• irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
• bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine (SIBO)
The gut appears to be particularly sensitive to the damaging effects of stress, perhaps because it is so closely connected to our mental and emotional state via the gut-brain connection.
For more info check out How Stress Wreaks Havoc On Your Microbiome
Coping with Stress
LIFE is stressful, right? We often have to deal with a high-stress job while managing complicated personal finances and strained family relationships.
Maybe you’re raising a family while trying to start your own business, or your boss is nightmare and you’re constantly living from paycheck to paycheck, unsure if you can make the next mortgage payment. Or perhaps you’re dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder after a horrible event.
Whatever your personal combination of stressors, learning to handle the stress skilfully is key to improving your gut health. Once your gut is in better shape, your whole body will be fitter and stronger, and you’ll be more resilient against stress.
Stress CAN be managed and handled in a positive way. The first step is to acknowledge that it plays a crucial role in your health and wellbeing. The next step is actively give some thought to the best stress-busting strategies for you.
Taking Care of Our Microbiome
While it’s true that stress damages our microbiome, it also works in reverse. When our microbiome is in good shape it actually makes us more resilient to stress. We go into this in more detail here.
People who have high levels of:
• vitamin A
• vitamin D
in their systems have been shown to have less problems with mood disorders and better overall health. They can actually make you more resilient to stress.
A probiotic is a supplement containing friendly bacteria to boost your gut health. You can also get these friendly bacteria from fermented foods like yoghurt and sauerkraut. Take a look at Two Superfoods To Heal Your Gut That You Can Make Yourself
Getting up and getting moving is a proven stress reducer. Aiming for at least 30 minutes of movement five times a week is a good goal.
Even mild exercise like walking the dog is very effective, and a vigorous workout is great too. Exercise pumps endorphins through the body and lowers cortisol levels, enabling the body to cope with stress better.
We carry stress and trauma in our body, and it can actually be stored up for years, leading to insidious depression or explosive anger.
Practices like yoga and tai chi enable us to work into the body in a systematic way, releasing pent-up energy. They also include deep-breathing techniques to help us let go of chronic tension that we may not even know we’re carrying.
Mindfulness and meditation
These are all about learning how to be free from compulsive, stressful thinking.
Sometimes people misunderstand meditation, believing they’re being told ‘not to think’ but really it’s about creating space in the mind, and learning not to believe every negative thought that pops into our head.
Through meditation we re-train our consciousness so that we become more present in life from moment to moment, instead of constantly fretting about unpaid bills or whether our bum will look fat on the beach this summer!
Keeping a daily “stress journal” can help point out causes and triggers of stress in your life. Each evening, write down the stress you had during the day and what caused it (or your best guess if you don’t know for sure).
Then, write down how you felt both emotionally and physically. Write down how you reacted to the stress. Did you perhaps overreact and make things worse? What did you do to make yourself feel better?
As you revies your journal, take note of your current coping techniques. Are they working for you? Are they contributing to your overall well-being? If not, it’s time to figure out new strategies.
It’s been proven that people with a stronger social life actually live longer. Just don’t cancel out the benefits by going overboard on that social lubricant, alcohol!
Leaning on a friend or family member who is a trustworthy confidant can help to give you perspective with the stress in your life and help you know you aren’t alone, which helps to make stress more manageable.
Making time for fun and relaxation: can really help to cut through stress, whether you’re alone or with friends and family. Having hobbies and interests outside of the things that cause stress in your life can give you a new focus and a positive outlet for your energies.
Stress management is one more reason to make sure you have a high amount of friendly bacteria in your daily diet!
Take Action Today
Look at the root causes of stress in your life and makes some changes, be bold!
Where you aren’t able to change the cause of stress, change your attitude instead. What lessons can you learn from the stress?
Could you become more skillful in how you respond? Does flying off the handle really help? Accept the things you cannot change, like the weather or other people being offensive from time to time!
Adopt a healthy lifestyle with a combination of diet and attitude. A clean diet will nourish your state of mind, and your state of mind will help you stick to the diet.
Stress reduction can make a real difference to your gut and overall health. Whatever your life situation there are meaningful steps you can take. Although stress will always be a part of life, it doesn’t have to rule your life or your gut!
42 thoughts on “7 Stress Busting, Gut Soothing Strategies”
dance definitely helps me destress, as does spending time with family..
These tips are really helpful. Exercising and running makes me feel better when I have stress.
I agree, our bodies can’t handle stress for too long. These are great things to do. I will keep them in mind and try to do them. Thank you for sharing!
I am a stress eater and I know it. There is a huge connection between my guts and my brain and i always get upset gut when I stress too much. You tips are always welcome because no matter how much we try it, we have to face stress from time to tuime.
This is so true! I can totally relate. Being stressed can definitely cause gut issues. Thank you for bringing awarness.
I can definitely relate – I was extremely stress out at my job, and experienced gut problems as a result. It’s so important to take care of ourselves mentally and physically and to actively do things to relieve stress. I find that exercise, the right diet and mindful meditation works best for me!
Awesome and important tips on how to reduce stress for guts. If I am stressed, I just sleep it off. A good sleep makes my body feel good!
I agree with all of them, especially the ones about meditation and exercise. That’s why I take breaks to either move about – keep the body moving – or to breathe.
When I am stressed I definitely feel it in my body.
I have noticed lately that when I am stressed I have acid reflux. I did not put 2 and 2 together for many years.
I agree, we need to take action and look at the root of the stress and figure out how to fix them.
Very informative post. Great tips! I will keep this in mind.
So many things to consider! I wonder if these are all things could help someone whose gut is impacted by PCOS
Great post and information on the topic! Stomach pain from stress is the worst. I find that CBD can help with stress, and also taking a probiotic helps my gut quite a bit.
When I’m stressed, I just visit my blog and write articles. Also, I do social engagements at work to relieve stress. Thank you for posting! http://www.oganiza.com
Exercising is a must for me, great list.
Speaking of Taking Care of Our Microbiome … have you heard about poop transplantation?
I can attest the mind to gut issues that can occur mainly from stress. This can happen especially as I get older! I love that you promote some good gut soothing strategies that are organic and natural like probiotics and Vitamin D
I’m always stressed out, even when I don’t have a lot going on, so these tips will really come in handy for me!
In almost stressful to think about how much damage over stressing can do to our bodies.
I have never given a ‘stress journal’ any thought. I didn’t even know that people did that. However, I can see its use to help reduce stress. Great post!
I definitely need to add more vitamins to my everyday routine.
Thanks for this useful information. Could you please advise me what are the best types of fermented foods to add into my diet. I do not want to make it myself yet. Are there any cultured foods I can purchase on-line or in supermarkets. I am a UK resident.
SO true! As a nutritionist I always guide my clients to alter so much more than just their food habits to heal the gut. Its all about de-stressing and repairing.
That’s really interesting to hear Mandi!
I love love this post on how the gut and body are related… I keep reading more and more about that. Now I am on a good probiotic – but I certainly need more exercise and other vitamins and to take a break and get some fresh air more! I love these healthy and stress reducing tips!
Awesome, keep it up Clare!
I love taking a bubble bath to de-stress. It helps to have my alone time, with pretty scents, enveloped in warmth 🙂
xoxo, Sam | thehauntedhousewife.com
Yeah hot baths really work. Obviously I have them with macho scents rather than pretty ones! 😉
Great information! Stress can be such a bear. I know I have had my fair share. Thanks for sharing!
Stress has a negative impact on so many parts of our health. I’d like to add another piece to bodywork: massage. A skilled therapist can help your body relax, which will help improve function of many of your systems, including the digestive system.
Yes of course, how could I overlook massage? You’re so right Aubrey, massage works so well at detoxing, relaxing and improving the body. Have you particularly noticed the effect of massage on digestive system?
Great tips! I have found that a little yoga and a creative project on the side go a long way in keeping my stress levels down. But I had no idea stress could cause all that damage to your gut! Thanks for the great info!
Yeah I’ve also found that having a creative project on the side is good for mood and well-being 🙂
Love this post…I do most of the things on your list for stress relief, but I really need to get more yoga and meditation into my life. Thanks for the great suggestions.
Those are all great tips! Exercise seems more effective for my husband while mindfulness is best for me. I’ve pinned and shared this!
Thanks Anya! 🙂
The gut brain connection is so amazing. And the science is just beginning to be published. I think this is a huge turning point in health and well being!
I know right? Amazing!
I am going to save and show this to several people I know who are having this problem. Wonderfully written.
Awesome, thanks Candy!
I find that a b vitamin and magnesium supplement help me manage my stress. Those tend to get depleted, and then I start feeling the bodily symptoms that you mentioned.
That’s interesting to hear Elizabeth! The B-vitamins are super important, and like you I use a magnesium supplement