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Gut Feelings: Everyday Stress & The Gut-Brain Axis

Gut Feelings: Everyday Stress  & The Gut-Brain Axis
Writer and expert2 years ago
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We have all said it at some point: ‘I can feel it in my gut’, and sometimes, we really do.

From stomach churning anxiety, to those extra trips to the loo ahead of a big meeting or nerve-wracking journey, there is no question that everyday stress can show itself in a gut feeling.

Experts agree that the brain and gut are intrinsically linked, both physically and biochemically, via what is called the gut-brain axis.

This connection is thought to be the reason that stress affects your digestive system and, as scientists are increasingly discovering, your gut can even influence your mental health too.


The gut-brain connection

Ever had the feeling that your gut knows you are stressed even before your brain does?

It could be because the brain and gut are connected via the nervous system and neurotransmitters, both of which ping messages constantly, back and forth, between each other.

Perhaps most significant to this connection is the vagus nerve.

One of the body’s twelve cranial nerves, the vagus nerve physically connects the brain and the digestive system, helping to control digestion, as well as reflex actions such as coughing and swallowing, cardiovascular activity, your heart rate and even your breathing.

Experts are increasingly investigating the role of the vagus nerve in the gut-brain axis, looking for any links with conditions such as coeliac disease or obesity as well as depression and anxiety.

Neurotransmitters produced in the brain, meanwhile, are chiefly associated with emotions and feelings – think dopamine and serotonin, both associated with happiness.

But these happy little hormones are not only the product of your grey matter - in fact, many neurotransmitters are produced in the gut.

Not only does some of our serotonin supply come from the gut but our digestive system also produces gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a lesser known neurotransmitter, which helps to control those gut-wrenching feelings of fear and anxiety.


Gut microbes, your brain and emotions

Your gut is home to trillions of microbes that can influence everything from your immunity to your mood.

These microbes breakdown the bile acids and amino acids that studies suggest may affect the brain.

Gut bacteria also produce short-chain fatty acids (), including butyrate, propionate and acetate, each of which, scientists say, are linked to brain function.

For example,  butyrate, along with the bacteria that produce it, seems to be important in supporting the function of the blood-brain barrier.

Elsewhere, good levels of propionate have been shown to help some people to cut down on emotional eating, reducing that rewarded feeling we get from scoffing high energy .


Live cultures to reduce stress

So, if gut microbes are so strongly linked with our mental wellbeing and mood, it stands to reason that supporting your gut microbiome might also help to support your mental health, right?

We think so.

And, in fact, studies have shown that strains of Bifidobacterium longum – the species to which PrecisionBiotics1714-Serenitas® culture belongs – could improve symptoms of anxiety, in those with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

With all of this in mind, it is clear that maintaining the balance of your gut microbiome could do much more than simply aid digestive health, and that it is important for keeping stress and anxiety in check as well.


How can I help to reduce my feelings of everyday stress?

Taking a dietary supplement which focuses on mental well-being is a great start!

In addition to your daily supplement, a balanced diet and exercise regime can really help your body to cope with stressful times.

Taking time out is also vital, with meditation and yoga both helping you to connect with your brain and body in a mindful way.

Equally, a long bath or just curling up with a good book can have a similar effect, giving you much-needed space to focus on yourself and step away from stressful situations.

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Writer and expert
View precisionbiotics's profile