The Importance of Stress Management for Gut Health

Living with chronic illness can be unsettling and frustrating…on a good day. Life itself can be a struggle at times…add on the role of harboring a unpredictable gut can certainly add an extra layer. I get it.

Stress can exacerbate your health issues. Research shows that stress can alter your gut microbiome & make your gut more ‘leaky’ or permeable. And feeling stressed is never fun, right? Changes in the gut microbiome can lead to changes in emotional behavior.

The gut brain axis is a bi-directional communication pathway between the gut and the brain. The gut and brain are derived from same tissue in utero. The gut-brain axis enables gut microbes to communicate with the brain & the brain with the gut. Gut microbes are capable of creating brain chemicals called neurotransmitters such as dopamine, norepinephrine, GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) and the precursors to serotonin. Alterations in these neurotransmitters can impact how we feel.

As part of your wellness strategy, factor in your stress level and also the way you talk to yourself and others about your illness. When you talk negatively, your brain, a ‘plastic organ’ can change. Learn more here at Psychology Today.  Negative self talk slows your brain functioning and can lead to depression. Are you negative talker? Check out this article on the Mayo clinic website to learn more.

Modern technology (phones, computers, email) has its many perks but has added a layer of urgency to our everyday life. We are always reachable. Less downtime means more stress.

If you have gut issues, I can not stress enough the need to factor stress management into your treatment plan. It should bear the same level of attention as your diet and any medical treatments you may be including right now.

An interesting study via Monash University looked at symptom benefit of gut directed hypnosis vs. the low FODMAP diet and found both treatments had the same effects on gut symptoms. And the gut directed hypnotherapy provided better benefit on psychological symptoms.

Yoga, cognitive behavioral therapy, meditation are other adjunctive therapies to calm your body and your mind. 

For me, a good walk on the beach listening to the waves crash on the sand or perhaps sitting lakeside does me wonders.  In fact, simply getting out in nature does the body good.

The problem is that many of us don’t factor stress management into our daily lives. Accepting your body and its many nuances can be the beginning of managing your stress. Planning activities into your daily life that offers stress relief is essential.

Do you have a special way to de-stress?

Here are a few on my favorites:

  • Walk your dog.  (My dog Lucy is so thrilled to go for a walk with me that I feel like her personal hero! Getting out in nature always calms me down.) And just look at that cute face!
  • Unplug! Taking a social media break is essential. Remember everyone shares their ‘A game’ online. It’s easy to compare your life to what others are posting…but remember everyone has good and bad days.
  • Be a water baby. Walking on the beach, sitting lakeside, or simply sinking your toes into the sand does your body good. Even a nice warm tub can offer you and your body some well needed chill time.
  • Seek help. Sometimes having a therapist to share your frustration and (perhaps your anger) can be truly therapeutic. It’s a sign of strength when you know you need help!
  • Consider gut directed hypnotherapy.
  • Add downtime to your calendar like you would a doctor’s appointment. If you are a busy bee like me, this is even more essential.
  • Just say no. If you are the one that always volunteers to host every family dinner, work the library book sale, offer your time at the local elementary school, perhaps be a little more strategic with your time. Say yes to some activities and let others do the rest. It’s really okay to give someone else a chance to shine in the volunteer position.

So…here’s your homework. Make a list of one thing you will remove from your calendar to decrease stress and one thing you will add to your weekly calendar to modify your stress. YOU can do it!


7 replies on “The Importance of Stress Management for Gut Health

  • Casey

    This is such an important message. It’s something that I find ESSENTIAL when managing my symptoms. A walk with some calming music or some light stretching/yoga always puts me in a better state of mind, and even if my tummy issues don’t go away entirely, I feel like I’m in a better place to deal with them. I really appreciate you sharing.

  • Chris M.

    Hi Kate…I take a weekly yoga/stretch/meditation class that has helped me a great deal. Just learning how to breath differently in times of stress has done wonders. Also a tip that has made a big difference in my stress level – I turned the ringer off my cell phone 3 years ago. The constant “ding” every time I got a text, email, or voicemail was putting me on edge. That little change has made such an impact. Thanks as always for all of the wonderful advice/info you provide – plus the yummy recipes!

  • Sandy

    Any advice on how to find a good hypnotherapist? Love your blog! And the recipes I’ve tried have been great! Thank you!

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