Let’s face it: Stress is an attention hog. No matter how hard you try to ignore it, it’ll find a way to reveal itself – be it through your dreams, your pores, or even your digestion. Unfortunately, until stress is addressed, those irritating issues will only become worse (yep, stress stomach aches and stress diarrhoea are real). Thankfully, certain natural supplements can help.
It may seem like supplements are a bandage of sorts, merely covering up the symptom rather than healing it. Because of the gut-brain axis, though, probiotics are effective at managing both the cause (stress) and the symptom (digestive issues).*
The Connection Between Stress, Digestion and Your Microbiome
“Scientists have known about the connection between our microbiome and our mood for a long time,” internal medicine physician Austin Perlmutter, M.D. says. “In fact, they were actually testing out probiotics as a treatment for melancholy back in 1910.”
More recently, a British Medical Journal study found probiotics alone, or in combination with prebiotics, can improve depressive symptoms in people. Other studies have also linked gut health with stress, anxiety, and overall mental health.
One possible reason is that the gut contains three to five more serotonin receptors than the brain, integrative medicine physician Aditi Nerurkar, M.D., MPH said.
This can create a relentless cycle, unless well managed. For example, the more stressed a person becomes, the worse their digestion may be. At the same time, the more unhealthy a person’s microbiome is, the more stressed they might become.
How Probiotics Help Manage Stress and Digestion
A healthy gut microbiome keeps digestion running smoothly. When the microbiome is thrown out of whack from external factors (like diet) or internal factors (like stress), side effects, including diarrhoea, gas, bloating, constipation, and more can occur.
“People need to understand that the role of the gut bacteria is not just to help with digestion, but it is constantly communicating with everything: our immune system, our hormones, our brain,” says functional medicine doctor Amy Shah, M.D.. “They are an essential part of our body’s army.”
Probiotic supplements help strengthen that army by adding healthy bacteria to the gut, which also – by proxy, enhances other factors like mental health.
Taking probiotics to keep the microbes in balance is a helpful preventive measure, against both stress and the unwanted physical side effects, like bloating, diarrhoea, gas, or constipation.
However if you have ongoing and progressive gastrointestinal issues, it’s a good idea to visit primary care physician to rule out underlying health concerns, and he may also refer you to a gastroenterologist.
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