Stress and your gut - an unlikely duo.

It’s a no-brainer that a balanced diet, nutrient-rich foods and lots of water are great for our bodies- we’re positive we’re preaching to the choir here. However, accepted as an undisputed truth, it’s a shock that many of us don’t truly understand the impact that good food, and a healthy gut, can have on our overall mental wellbeing. 

Please welcome the ‘mind-gut axis.

The experts don’t call it the ‘second-brain’ for nothing. This intricate and delicate system, known formally as the microbiome, consists of over 100 trillion bacteria which can have a direct bearing on systems such as our skin, hormonal balance, sex drive, and you guessed it, mental health. Like any well-oiled machine though, it requires a supportive environment to work at its peak. 

This big question here is, how?

Unsurprisingly, with an influence this strong, the gut has its very own nervous system known as enteric nervous system (ENS). While its primary function is to regulate digestion, it also communicates regularly with the brain and thus has influence over our mental wellbeing. “If your gut health is out of whack, your microbes send signals that negatively influence your mood,” explains Keri Glassman, a registered dietitian and founder of Nutritious Life. 

But, besides a poor diet, stress can send our gut health into a whirl. With the release of the stress hormone known as epinephrine, gut bacteria is allowed to expand out of control. What follows can be a cycle of indigestion, inflammation of the intestinal walls, fatigue, and you guessed it, more stress. 

So, what is the take home message here?

Our gut-health is in our hands. A diet rich in fibre and nutrients, coupled with regular exercise and lots of water can be the simple measures taken to ensure our mind is at ease. Like a garden, our gut requires regular care and maintenance to ensure our weeds don’t get out of control.