By Rebecca Traylen
The majority of us will feel stressed at some time in our day, whilst small amounts of stress are normal it is important to find time to unwind and relax.
Your nervous system isn’t very good at distinguishing between emotional and physical threats. If you are stressed over work deadlines, bills or an argument with a friend, your body can react just as strongly if you’re facing a true life-or-death situation. The more the emergency stress system is activated, the easier it becomes triggered and making it harder to shut off.
Constantly being in a state of stress can lead to health problems as chronic stress can disrupt nearly every system in your body. It can suppress your immune system, upset your digestive system and can increase the ageing process.
Gut health and stress
Have you ever wondered why when you are feeling stressed or anxious you find you’re going to the toilet more or get butterflies in your stomach? This is because our brain and our gut are continually talking to each other, known as the gut-brain axis. Our brain can affect our gut and vice versa.
The microbes in our gut our sensitive to stress and it has been shown that stress can kill some of these microbes in our gut. Therefore, it is important to control and reduce stress in order to protect our mental health and gut health.
Managing and controlling stress
Identifying the cause of your stress can be a first step in managing your stress.
Meditation, yoga and deep breathing can be a very effective way of relaxing the body, there are a number of free apps and online classes for beginners.
Try and get outside on a daily basis, even if it’s just for 20 minutes, this will help you unwind and also add some movement to your day. Exercise has also shown to increase the number and type of beneficial bacteria in your gut!
Reach out to friends and family who can help provide emotional support.
Eating a healthy diet can help you cope with your stress. Aim to eat a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, high-quality protein, omega-3 fatty acids.
Make sure you are getting your rest, aim for 7-8 hours per night.
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Sources and where to go for more information :
Mind, the mental health charity www.mind.org.uk
Mental Health Foundation www.mentalhealth.org.uk