Another Reason to De-stress and Eat Right.
More and more research is starting to prove the connection between gut health and general health, and now a new study has found an interesting connection between stress, gut health, and risk of developing autoimmune disorders. As we’ve discussed in the past, your digestive system contains 70 percent of the immune cells in our body, which means that when our gut isn’t happy, our bodies feel it.
The new study, published by the American Society for Microbiology, found that subjecting mice to stress conditions changed the bacterial composition in their guts, which in turn led to changes in their immune system. Researchers found that stressed mice’s guts contained bacteria types typically linked to autoimmune disorders, such as multiple sclerosis. What’s more, the presence of these bacteria likely have an enhanced ability to travel through the body and infect tissues.
In other words, the more stressed the mice were, the more likely their guts contained bacteria that would cause the immune system to attack the body.
Granted, this study was conducted in mice and humans may react a bit differently (as a side note: it would be extremely difficult and likely unethical to conduct a similar study on human subjects). That said, researchers think a similar process may happen in humans, which means that every day stress might have a deeper impact on the body’s health than what was previously known.
How To De-Stress
All this also points to need to continually find ways to remove, mitigate, and manage the stressful aspects of our lives, in addition to eating healthy. Here are a few ways you might consider that can help reduce stress in your life.
Okay, we know you probably don’t need practice breathing, but you might need practice breathing deeply. This is often part of practicing yoga, but you can do this pretty much anywhere at any time. Simply close your eyes and take deep breaths in through your nose, hold it for about 3-4 seconds, and then slowly push the air out of your mouth using your belly. Try to concentrate on your breath. If errant thoughts enter your mind, acknowledge them and then return your focus to your breath. This will help you calm down, reduce your blood pressure, and de-stress, of course.
Go for a Walk
Walking can really be a great tool for clearing your mind. Not only does walking count towards your daily dose of exercise, but it also can release mood-boosting endorphins while decreasing the stress hormone cortisol. You could go for a spin around your neighborhood, but it might also be a good idea to try to get out in nature, particularly where there’s shade to help you keep cool.
Eat Happy Foods
We can’t really talk about gut health without talking about what we eat. And what we eat also has an effect on our moods, which in turn affects our stress levels. When we eat certain foods, our brains will release a little bit of serotonin, a brain chemical that is commonly linked to feeling happy (or at least content).
Junk food is often associated with serotonin release, however, we want to eat healthy! Luckily there are a handful of foods that can both boost your mood and be healthy. These include nuts, salmon, eggs, tofu, and certain fruits. So, if you’re feeling stressed, don’t tear into that tub of ice cream. Grab a bag of nuts or some fruit and go to town guilt-free!
If you’d like to explore strategies for managing stress, schedule an appointment with one of our nutritionists. We can help you develop a customized approach to living a healthier, leaner lifestyle.