How Does Stress Impact Gut Health?

Do you often get sick to your stomach when dealing with high-stress situations? Studies show that previous or current stressful events can contribute to the onset or worsening of conditions that affect your gut. These include irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD), peptic ulcer disease, and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

Why Does Stress Cause Issues With Your Gut?

Severe stress levels can sometimes cause your body to enter what’s known as, “fight or flight” mode. This is a natural reaction that is important for humans and other animals to survive. However, the effects it has on the body can be negative. Here’s why: 

During fight or flight mode, your body will produce hormones such as adrenaline that enter the bloodstream. This inflow of hormones restricts blood flow to places like the digestive system so that additional blood flow to places like your muscles aid you in an actual life-threatening scenario. 

Unfortunately, recurring stress levels that are causing a lack of blood flow to your digestive system can cause gut issues such as reduced microbial diversity, weakened immune system, stomach pains, irregular bowel movements, and a host of other health-related issues.

Increased stress levels can also affect your diet resulting in negative symptoms in your gut health. If you ingest more unhealthy, greasy, or processed foods to cope with your stress, you may cause or exacerbate stomach and gut issues.

Tips for Reducing Stress Levels

If stress is affecting your gut health, there are ways you can reduce it. Common stress-reducing techniques and activities include: 

  • Regular exercise
  • Adequate sleep
  • Stress-reducing supplements such as lemon balm or green tea
  • Less caffeine and alcohol consumption
  • Participating in hobbies that you enjoy
  • Meditation and yoga
  • Listening to calm music
  • Avoiding procrastination
  • Learning to avoid or limit what is causing you stress
  • Developing better time management skills

Keep in mind, you may have to try more than one or a combination of several techniques.

Tips for Improving your Gut Health

Different supplements and activities can aid in improving your gut health including:

  • Taking probiotics 
  • Eating more prebiotic fiber that is found in foods like asparagus, bananas, and onions
  • Avoiding unnecessary antibiotics as they can harm your beneficial gut bacteria
  • Reducing sugar and sweeteners 
  • Reducing or eliminating smoking

Schedule an Appointment

If you have any questions or concerns about your gut health, contact us today. The board-certified physicians at Birmingham Gastroenterology Associates specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of a variety of digestive conditions. Call (205) 271-8000 to schedule an appointment.

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