Beyond helping us extract nutrients from foods, our gut health has an important role to play in our immunity. Our gut often protests when its working conditions are less than desirable, causing heartburn, bloating, pain, gas, imperfectly-formed bowel movements. During stressful times, negative emotions can modify your gut environment in negative ways.
There are a few different ways digestive health suffers from the insult of chronic stress:
Your can stress out your gut!
The enteric nervous system is an extension of our autonomic nervous system, also known as the second brain. The enteric system helps to regulate digestion. When we feel stress, blood is diverted away from the digestive tract to our muscles, disrupting the intestinal muscle contraction leading to gas caused by nutrient malabsorption. Some additional symptoms like constipation and diarrhea also tend to emerge.
That gut feeling is real!
Stress can weaken your gut barrier. This barrier is a critical part of the immune system. A weakened intestinal barrier can let pathogens into the bloodstream leading to chronic silent inflammation that attacks our own tissues and organs, and has been linked with many chronic conditions such as Alzherarthritis, asthma, COPD, heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Inflammatory response created by our immune system is essential for protecting ourselves from infections. These inflammatory conditions take away your immune system’s resources to fend off infections.
Your gut bacteria’s reaction to stress.
Your gut can literally change the map in your gastrointestinal system.Your gut bacteria communicate with the brain through the vagus nerve. Your gut utilizes the same neurotransmitters your brain uses to regulate mood, memory and energy levels, such as GABA, serotonin, adrenaline, dopamine, acetylcholine and melatonin. Stress can create an immediate effect on our gut microbiome such as reduced beneficial bacteria, increased harmful bacteria and inflammation in the gut. In turn, the hostile gut environment creates defensive molecules known as inflammatory cytokines that makes the brain feel anxious and depressed.
There are three foundations to good gut health:
1) Microbiome balance balance
2) Gut lining integrity
3) Sufficient digestive factors. Let’s take a look at all three factors in detail.
Friendly bacteria can not only support mental emotional well-being and nutrient absorption, it can also produce natural antibiotics to kill off infections. Your gut bacteria is busy fighting off infection before pathogens can even reach your bloodstream. Adding fermented foods are a great way to reward those hard-working, good microbes. The fermentation process creates lactic acid which naturally inhibits the growth of bad bacteria. Fermented foods can also provide prebiotic fibers that help to host beneficial bacteria. However, to get the beneficial strains many of us are lacking, it’s important to introduce human strain probiotics such as any of the HMF (Human Micro Flora) line from Genestra. (We carry these at Healing House, please contact us for info)
Gut Lining Integrity
The gastrointestinal barrier can be reinforced by removing inflammatory food triggers to reduce the insult to the gut lining. The natural healing process can also be encouraged by adding L-glutamine, a naturally occuring amino acid found in cabbage juice and bone broth. Glutamine is the preferred fuel of the intestinal lining cells.
Digestive enzyme, hydrochloric acid and bile are some important digestive factors to make sure foods get broken down into nutrients. Digestive bitters such as dandelion greens, chards and arugula help to stimulate the vagus nerve, as discussed, the channel where our gut and brain communicate. Bitter herbs and foods help to aid in the production and release of digestive enzymes.
Here are some recipes that support gut health:
Digestive Bitters Salad
Total Time: 10 min
Total Time: 40 min
Green Gut Soother Smoothie
Total Time: 10 min
In health and wellness,
Tahlia Sage - Holistic Nutritionist
Petra Sovcov is not a Medical Doctor (MD) or a Naturopath (ND), she is a Doctor of Natural Medicine (DNM) and Clinical Herbal Therapist (CHT). The suggestions or recommendations made on this site are not meant to be a substitute for advice from your MD, or as a substitute for any prescriptions you may be taking. Suggestions followed will be the responsibility of the reader, and are stated with the intention of interest and education only. If you have a health issue, please see your primary care physician (MD) first and foremost.