Whether it’s work, a long list of social events or family obligations, we are constantly on the go and our fast paced lifestyle can lead to stress. Whilst a little stress from time to time is normal, if your stress levels stay high for long periods of time it can cause a variety of symptoms that drastically affect your overall well-being. Symptoms include poor gut health, irritability, depression, insomnia and skin issues.
The bad news is many Australians suffer from chronic stress. In fact, a recent well-being survey, conducted by the Australian Psychological Society, found one third of Australians are experiencing moderate to extremely severe symptoms of depression and above-normal levels of anxiety. Read about it here: https://www.psychology.org.au/news/media_releases/8Nov2015-pw
How Does Stress Effect Your Gut?
When you’re stressed, it can compromise your gut health.
The gut (gastrointestinal tract) has the primary role of processing?? food – from digestion, absorption of nutrients and the excretion of waste. It helps defend our bodies against pathogens from the outside environment and plays a critical role in our mood, how well we sleep, emotions, immune system and hormone balance.
A recent study published in The Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology found regular stress levels impact your healthy gut flora which in turn impacts the integrity of your gut lining. Once your lining is weakened, inflammation can occur causing all kinds of health issues such as depression and anxiety.
Symptoms of a Stressed out Gut
- Poor quality sleep
Our gut microbiome (home to good and bad bacteria) is regulated by circadian rhythms. It releases many of the same sleep-producing neurotransmitters as the brain - serotonin, dopamine, and melatonin. Therefore, a healthy gut can lead to healthy sleep.
When stress affects your gut, this can negatively impact how you sleep. If the circadian rhythms are disturbed, the number of healthy bacteria in the microbiome drop and long term can lead to obesity and diabetes.
- Digestive issues
Stress can trigger or exacerbate digestive issues. The stomach and intestines have more nerve cells than the spinal cord and these nerves run directly to the brain. When the brain is stressed, the hypothalamus releases hormones such as the corticotropin releasing hormone that can disrupt the whole digestive system. This hormone directs the adrenal gland to make the “flight” chemicals steroids and adrenaline. Short term, these hormones and chemicals can affect our appetite, cause stomach aches, nausea, and diarrhea. Longer term, chronic stress can aggravate diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome and heartburn.
- Skin conditions
Our gut is in continuous conversation with our skin via the microbiome and it is suspected that this connection, named the gut-skin axis has a critical role to play in our skin health.
It is believed that when there is an imbalance in gut bacteria (when bad bacteria overrule) our immune system fights back which contributes to inflammatory skin conditions such as acne. Additionally, a poor diet and food allergies may cause certain proteins to leak out of the gut and irritate the skin, causing conditions such as eczema. Furthermore it can cause hormonal imbalances that makes skin more sensitive and reactive. Our cortisol levels – the aptly named “stress hormone”- rise. This imbalance may trigger or aggravate existing skin disorders such as acne, rosacea, hives and eczema. Prolonged stress can also make it harder for skin problems to heal.
Steps to Manage Stress and Maintain a Healthy Gut
Ensuring the healthy development & ongoing care of your gut is paramount to your overall health. Here are a few simple steps you can incorporate into your lifestyle for optimal gut health:
- Get 7-8 hours of sleep
Getting a good amount of sleep on a regular basis benefits your heathy gut bacteria and in turn keeps you well rested.
- Choose nourishing foods
Fuel your body with a wide variety of healthy, fresh foods. Aim for a large amount of plant based foods including prebiotic fibre that helps healthy bacteria to thrive.
- Exercise regularly
Active people have healthier and more diverse microbiomes than people who are sedentary. Walking 30 minutes a day can help combat stress and help keep your gut healthy.
- Take a daily probiotic supplement
Consider taking a regular probiotic supplement to maintain a healthy population of good gut bacteria. Talk to your pharmacist, doctor to dietician on which one will provide you with the best strains of bacteria.
- Try to avoid antibiotics where possible
Whilst antibiotics are sometimes critical to recovering from an illness, taking too many can be detrimental to the colonies of good bacteria. Where possible talk to your health expert to seek alternatives.
If your skin is suffering due to stress and poor gut health, Kiri Yanchenko, founder of AMPERNA® is here to help you. Kiri suffered severe health complications from stress and side effects from medication. She found by that adopting holistic principles she was able to help herself back to full health and glowing skin.
The AMPERNA® range features five products that are full of anti-inflammatory anti-bacterial ingredients and contain our probiotic complex. The products and ingredients are inspired by Kiri’s learnings on Holistic Skin Health and the link that she found between gut health and skin health.
Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. If symptoms persist, we recommend that you see your GP or dermatologist.