Stressed? Alter Your Microbiome.

by Lisa Breitenwischer

June 06, 2023

Stressed? Alter Your Microbiome.

Stress suppresses the immune system, causes the largest volume of lost workdays, triggers episodes in diseases from asthma to gastrointestinal disorders, and is a major factor in top-killing diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Stress appears to do this damage in part by influencing our gut microbiome. This influence takes place via the gut-brain axis, or more specifically the gut-brain-microbiome axis, an information superhighway between the gut and the brain.

A 2019 review, which was published in Physiological Reviews, “The Microbiota-Gut-Brain Axis”, took a deep look at the mechanisms by which the brain communicates with the microbiome. “The microbiota and the brain communicate with each other via various routes including the immune system, tryptophan metabolism, the vagus nerve and the enteric nervous system involving microbial metabolites such as short-chain fatty acids, branched chain amino acids, and peptidoglycans”, the authors note.

Our Second Brain

The gut has been called a “second brain” because it produces many of the same neurotransmitters as the brain does, like serotonin, dopamine, and gamma-aminobutyric acid, all of which play a key role in regulating mood.

What affects the gut often affects the brain and vice versa. When your brain senses trouble—the fight-or-flight response—it sends warning signals to the gut, which is why stressful events can cause digestive problems like a nervous or upset stomach. On the flip side, flares of gastrointestinal issues like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Crohn’s disease, or chronic constipation may trigger anxiety or depression.

80 to 90% of the amount of serotonin in your body is manufactured by the nerve cells in your gut. In fact your gut’s brain makes more serotonin-the master of happiness molecule-than the brain in your head does. Many neurologists & psychiatrists are now realizing that that this may be one of the reasons why antidepressants are often less effective in treating depression than dietary changes, are. Recent research is revealing that our second brain may not be “second” at all. It can act independently from the main brain and control many functions without the brain’s input or help. This is huge!!

It’s hard to believe that by altering the bacteria in your gut, you can better handle stress, improve your mood, and even treat your anxiety or depression. But an explosion of research into the fascinating world of the gut-brain connection is showing just that. We now know that you can alter your gut bacteria in a way that positively affects your mood and brain function.

Anti-Stress Activities

Meditation is one stress reducing activity that can influence the microbiome, which is a simple but powerful tool. 

Breathing Exercises can lower cortisol, a hormone associated with stress that can suppress the immune system.

Reiki or YogaBoth Reiki and Yoga have been known to decrease stress and bring balance to the body. 

Delegate-Let some things go that don’t need to be done by you and assign them to others.

Daily self-CARE- Clean eating, Adequate sleep, Recovery, and Exercise activities will help the body return to homeostasis after stress triggers, improve the microbiome, and even allow for weight loss, as many people, when they’re stressed, hold on to weight.

Get Support- Talk to a trusted friend about your struggles or consider a trained therapist if you need more support.
Consider hiring a Health Coach: A Certified Health Coach is someone who will listen to your concerns and support and guide you to make shifts to your diet and lifestyle.

Probiotics- Bifidobacteria appear to play a role in the gut-brain axis. Certain strains of Bifidobacteria—more than 250 subtypes have been identified—seem to have a beneficial impact on depression and anxiety. Studies also show, taking Bifidobacteria as a probiotic can reduce inflammation in diabetes, celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, multiple sclerosis, and psoriasis.

Implementing stress management techniques can help to address-stress derived digestive issues.


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