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  • Writer's pictureDr. Dooreck with Zoeya Gordon

Gut Health and Stress

Updated: May 7



Healthy foods feed the gut-brain axis, health, microbiome, gastrointestinal gi system for you and the gastroenterology doctor
The link between the brain and the gut can be disrupted by stress which can result in negative effects on gut health.

What is the gut-brain connection?


The gut-brain connection, aka the gut-brain axis (GBA), refers to the interrelationship between the gastrointestinal tract and the central nervous system. Recent scientific studies have revealed that the connection between the two is complex and bidirectional, meaning that the gut can influence the brain and vice versa.


According to Harvard Health Publishing, the brain directly affects our stomach. In the same way, our intestines can send signals to our brains.

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The gut possesses its own nervous system

The gut contains its own nervous system, called the enteric nervous system, which sends signals to the brain. This system is responsible for regulating various functions such as digestion, immune system response, and nutrient absorption.

What hormones are involved?

Around 90% of the body's serotonin, a neurotransmitter that affects mood, is produced in the gut. The brain can also influence gut function through stress responses and the release of certain hormones such as cortisol. This can lead to digestive issues, such as nausea, bloating, and diarrhea.


Stress can lead to digestive issues, such as nausea, bloating, and diarrhea.

Impact of stress on gut health

Stress can negatively impact gut health by decreasing the production of digestive enzymes and disrupting the balance of gut microbiota. This can lead to gastrointestinal problems such as bloating, diarrhea, and constipation. Chronic stress can even lead to more severe conditions such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).

Improving gut health

Emerging research is exploring how improving gut health through diet and probiotics can positively impact mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression. It is also important to note that stress reduction techniques and psychological interventions may alleviate gut symptoms.


Improving gut health through diet and probiotics can positively impact mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression

Focus on gut health and managing stress

It is essential to prioritize gut health to manage stress. This can be done by eating a balanced and healthy diet, avoiding processed foods, staying hydrated, and exercising regularly. Incorporating stress-relieving activities into daily routines such as yoga, meditation, or deep breathing exercises can also help to reduce stress levels and improve gut health.

Overall, the gut-brain connection is a promising area of research that has the potential to improve both physical and mental health outcomes.


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Ways to improve gut health

  • Plant-based diet

  • Avoid processed-foods

  • Manage stress

  • Reduce alcohol intake

  • Avoid large amounts of sugar

  • Consume a diet rich in fiber and prebiotics



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Below is an educational video on the gut-brain connection by TEDx Talks.




Fun Facts


  1. The gut is sometimes referred to as the "second brain" because it contains more than 100 million neurons, which are more than in either the spinal cord or the peripheral nervous system.

  2. A healthy gut microbiome is essential for maintaining overall health and well-being because it plays a significant role in the bidirectional communication between the gut and the brain.

  3. The gut-brain connection can explain why you might feel nausea or digestive discomfort when you're nervous or stressed, or why you experience "butterflies in your stomach" when you're excited.

  4. Exercise has also been found to have a beneficial impact on the gut-brain connection, reducing stress and improving gut health.

Statistics

Between 35% to 70% of individuals experience functional gastrointestinal disorders – with women being affected more frequently than men – resulting in painful sensations, bloating, and other uncomfortable symptoms. FGDs arise without any visible explanations, such as infections or cancer. Stress is often regarded as one of the major contributing factors. The process is bidirectional, where stress causes and aggravates gastrointestinal pain/symptoms, and vice versa.


Summary


It's important to recognize the connection between the gut and the brain and to address both physical and mental health aspects when treating gastrointestinal symptoms.

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


Personally


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. 🌱 🌾 🌿"

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