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OBW MAGAZINE

Stress and Gut Health: How To Eat Well, Look Good and Feel Great

Stress and Gut Health: How To Eat Well, Look Good and Feel Great

The link between our emotional health and our gut has been a subject of study for quite some time. Most of us are aware of how our mental wellbeing can impact our digestive system.

You only need to look to common issues like IBS to see this in action. In fact, a large proportion of us have experienced conditions like this first-hand, with 4 people in 10 having at least one digestive symptom at one time. One of the major contributing factors to these issues is recognised as stress.

What is gut health?

Looking after your gut and your mental health in tandem makes a lot of sense. Scientists talk about the gut-brain connection, where the neurons in our gut and our brain communicate with each other. It goes to show that our gut does far more than simply process our food.  

So, what does our gut actually do within the body? Inside your gut are trillions of bacteria, and yes, they help to digest your food effectively, but they also work in a similar capacity to the bacteria on your skin, which is to protect it against attack. This thin wall of bacteria can be easily disrupted from anything from parasites to candida. In short, it’s a delicate balance, and lifestyle factors including emotional overload and stress can most definitely impact it negatively.

What foods can impact gut health?

You may be wondering how the whole food and drink thing fits into this picture, because it is all absolutely tied together. There are certain foods that your gut loves, and others that it just doesn’t.

You may have heard the term, eat to feel happy. This is all based on the effects food can have on our body. Some of this is linked to the ways foods encourage the release of happy hormones dopamine and serotonin in the body. Others are loved by our gut and keep everything in balance.

Examples of the good and the bad include:

  • Yoghurts, bananas, lentils and raspberries are among those that can create a healthy microbiome in your gut. Essentially, that means that it’s helping to keep the all-important bacteria in your gut in good working order.
  • Sugars, caffeine and alcohol all seem to have the opposite effect on our gut, which is to encourage the growth of bad bacteria and throw our bodies out of whack. We know, it’s often those things that get panned, but sometimes it’s just a case of cutting back and adjusting your food to reap the benefits.

Three ways your gut and stress impact the body

The question is, if we eat well and choose the variety of foods known to be kind on your gut, will we start feeling happier. It’s interesting to break it down here and delve deeper into how a healthy gut can positivity impact your overall wellbeing, from mind to body. Because let’s face it, these things are intertwined too. if you feel good, chances are you’ll look good and vice versa.

Here are three ways your gut can help you to feel and look good.

  1. Your gut

Starting with the gut itself, if it’s in good shape it’ll produce the neurotransmitters needed to balance our moods. It plays a critical role in boosting dopamine, norepinephrine, acetylcholine, and GABA, all of which contribute to our emotional health. They are the things that drive or diminish anxiety, concentration, satisfaction and motivation.

Now you can see how specific food choices are crucial to our mood, and how you really can eat yourself happy. Because if you top up on the things that work in line with this, you can give your body and your mind what it needs.

  1. Your skin

Your skin is vital to your mental and physical health. On a cellular level, healthy skin acts as a barrier to infection and disease. On a psychological level, clear, radiant skin makes us feel youthful, happy and confident.

You only need to experience bad skin to see just how impactful it can be on all these areas. We talked about how your gut and your skin are similar in bacterial terms, but there’s more. Studies in what’s known as the gut-skin axis has revealed a unique relationship between the two, with things like inflammatory skin diseases (think atopic dermatitis, psoriasis, rosacea and even a type of acne, acne vulgaris) and your gut.

  1. Your hormones

By now, you’ll be started to recognise your gut as the super-agent that it is, so if you don’t know already how your gut is also linked to your hormones, this won’t come as a surprise. Indeed, scientists also talk about the oestrogen-gut microbiome axis, and the effect the gut microbiome has on post-menopausal women’s cognitive function.

In summary

Sometimes the study into different functions within the body can feel like they belong in the realms of science labs, with high voluted ideas that don’t translate to us in everyday life. Not so much with the gut and our emotional health.

It’s easy to see how gut health and stress are related. If you’ve never felt, quite literally, that connection, you’re one of the lucky few. There are practical reasons and achievable ways to work in line with our gut. But perhaps most importantly, there are very real rewards for doing so. A heathy gut can improve our looks, it can make us feel better within ourselves, and yes, it can help to minimise the hammering stress can have on our bodies.

It’s all about being armed with the knowledge and empowered by it’s application. So, go get those lentils. It all starts here.

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