Stress not only influences your brain but also your gut.
In the U.S, high levels of stress have long been a problem.
U.S statistics show (The American Institute of Stress, 2019):
A century ago, medicine improved its ability to categorize different body systems in order to better understand them. Today, however, we are increasingly aware that the body's various systems are interconnected and that they cannot be fully understood in isolation. One of our bodies' most significant interconnected systems is the gut-brain axis.
The digestive system consists of 100 million nerve cells that constantly send signals to the brain.
The sympathetic nervous system (“fight or flight”) and parasympathetic nervous system (“rest and digest”) deliver bidirectional signals between the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and the brain.
Consequently, different homeostatic processes are affected including the speed at which food travels through the digestive system, nutrient absorption, digestive juice secretion, and the balance of signals from these two sources. Disturbance in these processes and the level of inflammation in the digestive tract can be affected by both physical and emotional factors.
Stress increases the activation of the "fight or flight" mode and decreases the “rest and digest” mode, causing a higher-than-normal spike in cortisol levels in our bodies. During high levels of stress, cortisol moves blood flow away from the digestive tract and into the brain, major muscles, and limbs during the stress response. As a result, in this phase, our bodies are less concerned with digesting, causing digestion suppression. Thus, unhealthy digestion is an unhealthy gut.
Because of the strong link between the brain and the gut, stress and other emotions such as anxiety, depression, and anger can all affect the GI system, providing a way for bacteria to breach the gut lining, excessively activating the immune system, increasing inflammation in the gut, and negatively changing the gut microbiota. Chronic stress, as opposed to situational stress, emerges when the mind and body become conditioned to persistently high levels of cortisol, which can result in a myriad of physiological abnormalities.
Practice self-care consistently, such as healthy eating, exercising and drinking sufficient water.
Take a break from social media, the news, and possibly even some toxic relationships.
Take time to identify and reduce stress triggers.
Set realistic goals and expectations.
Stay connected with loved ones. This improves mood and provides support when it’s much needed.
Don't merely concentrate on the negative aspects of your life; instead, turn your focus to the positive ones.
Consult a professional when stress gets too much to handle or self-help isn't working. Your mental and physical well-being is paramount!
Here are some online thoughts from a Board-Certified Gastroenterologist.