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  • Writer's pictureBrian Dooreck MD

For "Gut’s" Sake: My Gut, My Brain, My Stress!

Updated: Jul 24, 2023

IBS, gas bloating, health, microbiome, gastrointestinal gi system, see your gastroenterology doctor or gastroenterologist
Stress influences not only 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):

77% of people experience stress that affects their physical health.
73% experience stress that affects their mental health.
33% experience extreme stress.

A century ago, medicine improved its ability to categorize different body systems to understand them better. However, we are increasingly aware that the body's systems are interconnected and cannot be fully understood in isolation. One of our bodies' most significant interlinked systems is the gut-brain axis.

What is the gut-brain axis, and why is it important?

The digestive system consists of 100 million nerve cells constantly sending 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 include the speed at which food travels through the digestive system, nutrient absorption, digestive juice secretion, and the balance of signals from these two sources. Physical and emotional factors can affect the disturbance in these processes and the level of inflammation in the digestive tract.

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What is the connection between stress, gut, and brain?

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-stress levels, 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.

How does stress slow down healthy digestion?

Because of the vital 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.

Food for thought: How your belly controls your brain | Ruairi Robertson | TEDxFulbrightSantaMonica

Behavioral changes:

  • 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 or self-help isn't working. Your mental and physical well-being is paramount!


I eat a high-fiber, mostly plant-based 🌱 diet, no red meat, drink 4 liters of water a day, exercise, and am focused on keeping nutrition simple. I am sharing what works for me and what I routinely recommend to my patients.

"Balance. Portion control. Keep nutrition simple. Eat Smart. Eat Healthy. 🌱 🌾 🌿"

Gut Health ➕ Patient Advocacy with Navigation ➕ Life Balance

If you were looking for information about Private Healthcare Navigation and Patient Advocacy from Executive Health Navigation

Connect with Dr. Dooreck on LinkedIn, where he focuses his sharing on Health, Diet, Nutrition, Exercise, Lifestyle, and Balance.


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