One way to lower stress that you didn’t know about

Sufficient rest and sleep, taking a break for some fun, exercising, spending time with loved ones and even meditating are all great ways to lower the stress most of us feel from our fast-paced modern lifestyles. But there is another critical aspect of taking care of your mental health that many people miss.

There is a strong link between your brain and digestive system. That’s why you feel butterflies in your stomach when you’re nervous or a kick in your guts when you hear bad news. For this same reason, stress can cause conditions such as indigestion and heartburn. In fact, your gut is the first place in your body to experience the damaging effect of stress.

Not only can your brain affect your gut — it works the other way around too. The highway of nerves between your brain and gut allows messages to flow in both directions. This means that if your gut is overrun with bad bacteria, which can limit the production of ‘feel good’ neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine, you’ll be more likely to experience stress, anxiety, depression, anger and a lack of motivation. All this means that keeping your microbiome in top shape is critical for your mental health.

Feeling constantly stressed can further destroy your gut health and eventually lead to disease. A 2013 study, among many others, has found that stress can increase intestinal permeability and lead to inflammatory bowel disease. It’s also not uncommon for people who face stressful events, such as the death of a loved one, divorce or job loss to soon develop autoimmune disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis.

If you’re constantly feeling overwhelmed, taking a look at the health of your gut, along with the other more common stress-busting ideas, could help prevent you from developing stress-related disease. However, this isn’t always easy, as the bacteria in your gut can actually influence the type of food you choose to eat. If your dominant bacteria thrive on fat or sugar, you might find yourself craving junk food and other foods that will help feed that particular bacteria and in turn, keep you feeling stressed and sick.

All this means is that you shouldn’t expect change overnight — make a small step and then the next — to replace the harmful bacteria with the type that will benefit your health. Maybe start having yoghurt for breakfast or drink some kraut juice before dinner. Soon you will repair your gut-health and feel the stress leave your body.

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