Can stress affect gut health? How can I reduce stress to improve gut health?

July 16, 2023 2 min read

Can stress affect gut health? How can I reduce stress to improve gut health?

Yes, stress can affect gut health in several ways. When the body is under stress, the nervous system releases hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, which can affect digestion, increase inflammation in the gut, and alter the composition of the gut microbiome (1). Stress has also been linked to a number of gastrointestinal disorders, including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) (2).

Reducing stress can be beneficial for gut health. Here are some strategies that may help:

  1. Mindfulness meditation: Mindfulness meditation involves focusing on the present moment and cultivating an attitude of non-judgmental awareness. Studies have shown that mindfulness meditation can help reduce symptoms of IBS and improve quality of life (3).
  2. Exercise: Regular exercise has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety and improve gut health by increasing gut motility and reducing inflammation (4).
  3. Yoga: Yoga is a mind-body practice that can help reduce stress and improve gut health by increasing relaxation, improving gut motility, and reducing inflammation (5).
  4. Breathing exercises: Deep breathing exercises can help reduce stress and promote relaxation. One technique, called the 4-7-8 breathing technique, involves inhaling for 4 seconds, holding the breath for 7 seconds, and exhaling for 8 seconds (6).
  5. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT is a form of psychotherapy that can help people identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviors that contribute to stress and anxiety. Studies have shown that CBT can be effective in reducing symptoms of IBS and improving quality of life (7).
  6. Social support: Having a supportive social network can help reduce stress and improve overall well-being. Seeking out supportive relationships with family and friends, or joining a support group for people with gastrointestinal disorders, may be helpful.

References:

  1. Konturek PC, Brzozowski T, Konturek SJ. Stress and the gut: pathophysiology, clinical consequences, diagnostic approach and treatment options. J Physiol Pharmacol. 2011;62(6):591-599.
  2. Mayer EA. Gut feelings: the emerging biology of gut-brain communication. Nat Rev Neurosci. 2011;12(8):453-466.
  3. Gaylord SA, Palsson OS, Garland EL, et al. Mindfulness training reduces the severity of irritable bowel syndrome in women: results of a randomized controlled trial. Am J Gastroenterol. 2011;106(9):1678-1688.
  4. Monda V, Villano I, Messina A, et al. Exercise modifies the gut microbiota with positive health effects. Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2017;2017:3831972.
  5. Cramer H, Haller H, Lauche R, et al. A systematic review and meta-analysis of yoga for digestive disorders. Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2016;28(10):1161-1171.
  6. Weil A. The 4-7-8 breath: how it works, how to do it, and its benefits. Dr. Weil's Wellness Therapies. https://www.drweil.com/health-wellness/body-mind-s


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