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The mind-body connection is very real. I’ve experienced it many times myself. And I’m sure you have too.
Just think back to a time when you were super stressed, fearful or even excited. I bet you had an uneasy feeling in your gut too — maybe nausea or butterflies in your stomach. Whatever was going on in your mind went straight to your gut.
This mind-gut connection isn’t a big deal if you’re stressed out occasionally. But it becomes a problem when you’re dealing with stress or anxiety daily…
You may start experiencing uncomfortable and embarrassing symptoms like cramping, queasiness, indigestion, bloating and diarrhea. You may even develop chronic gut issues, like ulcers, GERD and irritable bowel syndrome.
Why is your gut so sensitive to stress?
Well, according to a new study, your gut goes through some big changes when you’re under stress. In fact, stress impacts the bacteria in your microbiome, and it may even cause a serious gut issue called leaky gut syndrome.
But don’t worry too much (it’ll only make your gut worse!). There is a way to shield your gut from stress.
How stress causes leaky gut
Leaky gut syndrome is the enemy of gut health. And a new study from researchers at University College Cork and Teagasc Food Research Centre in Ireland shows that stress contributes to this common problem.
Researchers found that when mice deal with stress for a long time, the barrier between their gut and the rest of their body gets weaker and becomes leaky. This allows undigested food particles, bacteria and germs escape the gut and enter the bloodstream, which causes chronic inflammation.
That’s what happens to people who have leaky gut syndrome too. And it’s why leaky gut syndrome is so dangerous. Leaky gut even increases your risk of health problems like autoimmune diseases.
Researchers also found that chronically stressed mice had worse cognition and were less social than mice who weren’t stressed.
Luckily, there’s a way to protect your gut from stress, leaky gut and all the negative things that come with them…
The bacteria in your gut produce something called short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). SCFAs feed the cells in your gut. In fact, they’re their main source of food.
Researchers wanted to see how SCFAs impacted the whole stress-gut cycle, so they gave mice SCFA supplements. And boy did it make a difference.
Mice who got more SCFAs had fewer signs of stress and anxiety. SCFAs were also able to reverse their leaky gut syndrome.
How to get more short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs)
Eating high-fiber foods helps the bacteria in your gut create more short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). So, fiber could be the secret to protecting your gut from stress and leaky gut syndrome.
The best sources of dietary fiber are grains, legumes, fruits, nuts, and vegetables, like:
- Leafy greens
- Whole wheat spaghetti
- Brown rice
- Whole wheat bread
- Black beans
- Lima beans
- Split peas
- Brussel sprouts
If you want to keep your gut stress-resilient, get your fill of these foods. If you do, you’ll have one less thing to stress about… your gut health.
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- Eat high-fiber foods to reduce effects of stress on gut and behavior — MedicalXpress
- Short‐chain fatty acids: microbial metabolites that alleviate stress‐induced brain‐gut axis alterations — The Journal of Physiology
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome — Anxiety and Depression Association of America
- Leaky Gut As a Danger Signal for Autoimmune Diseases — Frontiers in Immunology
- Causes and treatments for a nervous stomach — Medical News Today
- Chart of high-fiber foods — Mayo Clinic