Right before a presentation, a seminar or an important test, we have butterfly effects in our stomach. Sometimes we can even experience heartburn or diarrhea which indicates that the brain and the gut are in communication. The opposite is also possible. Changes in the gut microbiota and changes in our intestinal permeability can cause anxiety and depression sometimes. The brain−gut interactions can make or break the health of a person.
While it is necessary to deal with any signs of health issues that affect the gut or brain, it is also needed to know that neither will be healthy if you don’t focus on the other as well. For example, treating your gut for parasites residing in them without solving your chronic stress issues will either make you a prey to reinfection or your body might not be able to get rid of the parasite because of chronic stress in the first place.
More than 75% of the feel-good hormone, serotonin, is present in the gut and is released by cells when food moves into the GI tract.
Flight or Fight Reaction: Today’s stressful world makes many individuals spend most of their time in ‘flight or fight’ mode such as during traffic, an important project deadline at work, financial issues, etc. and have little time for ‘rest and digest’ mode.
Leaky Gut: None of us want our gut lining to become permeable and suffer from the consequences of a leaky gut. While research proves that physical stress such as trauma and surgery can cause the intestine to become leaky, studies on the effect of mental stress on gut permeability is ongoing.
Inflammation: Cortisol, the most important steroid hormone in the human body, protects our body from the attack of inflammatory reactions. But, cortisol levels must be just enough-not too much nor too little-to keep inflammation down and respond to stress appropriately.
Immunity: Most of our immune system resides in the gut to protect the gut against things from the outside world such as food particles, bacteria and other stuff that we swallow. The gastrointestinal system secretes something called as secretory IgA (sIgA) which defends our body against any substance that comes in contact with our gut. Chronic stress decreases the production of sIgA and keeps our body vulnerable to pathogenic bacteria in the gut.
Stress Causes Imbalance in Gut Bacteria: Stress changes the composition of our gut and affects the gut’s microbiome diversity. The less diverse our gut bacteria are, the likelier we are to be overweight and be affected by allergic diseases.
Pain: Often, patients with IBS and other gut disorders suffer greatly from pain. They experience elevated digestive problems such as gas and pain when subjected to mental stress and anxiousness.
In a nutshell, stress makes our gut permeable and inflamed, immune system is compromised and causes an imbalance of the gut bacteria. To top it all, stress increases the amount of pain experienced by an individual. Stress needs to be dealt with properly to enable an individual to lead a healthy life. Read more on dealing with stress at www.firsteatright.com.
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.