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Minimize STRESS at work in 2020

Posted on19 Jan 2020
The good news is that understanding how to support your friendly microbes as you do your best to manage your day-to-day stress levels can help you experience healthier and more fulfilling days.

First Thing’s First: Get to Know Your Gut As the epicenter of your body, your gut is home to trillions of microbes that all work in harmony with your body’s cells to keep you thriving. In fact, 80% of your immune system lives within the inner ecosystem of the gut, affecting almost every aspect of how you feel each day.

When your gut is healthy, it contains a solid balance of about 80% good guys and 20% bad guys.
The good bacteria in your body work to keep you both feeling and functioning at your best by:
- Supporting your immune system
- Digesting your food
- Supporting mental clarity
- Promoting nutrient absorption
- Balancing your hormones
- Normalizing glucose levels
- Supporting a healthy gut barrier
- Regulating inflammation
- Warding off pathogens and disease-causing microbes

However, many aspects of everyday life can deplete your good bacteria without you even knowing, like highly processed food, antibiotics (both as medicine and in our food supply), everyday hygiene habits, toxins in the environment, the natural aging process, and as we’ve mentioned above, ongoing stress.

How Stress Hurts Your Gut and Your Health
Put simply, when you’re experiencing elevated stress levels, your brain goes into flight-or-fight mode, which can impact the blood flow to your gut. This is why it’s common to experience a lull in digestive and immune health in tandem with episodes of heightened stress.

Interestingly, one of the key services your bacteria provide is helping to signal the proper response to the brain to cope with elevated “stressors” so that they don’t affect the rest of the body. But when compounded over time, chronic, long-term stress can erode the good guys put in place to protect you from the effects of…you guessed it, stress.

Looking deeper, the Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology published a recent study showing that consistent stress negatively affects the amount and diversity of your good gut flora. And, when it comes to gut health, diverse and plentiful are the goal. Otherwise, your whole ecosystem suffers, which can affect the way you look, feel, and even how you act. Recent studies have even suggested that a microbiome influenced by stress can lead to the type of inflammation that is tied to mental health issues such as depression or anxiety.

To add insult to injury, the harmful effects of the stress response can weaken your gut’s intestinal lining against invaders — making you more susceptible to illness, exhaustion, and nutritional deficiencies. You see, your “gut barrier” keeps unfriendly microbes and pathogens from entering your bloodstream. When your good microbes are weakened or damaged due to stress, the integrity of your gut lining can become compromised and this could manifest in a plethora of health issues.

Fortunately for us, stress is manageable and the microbiome is malleable — meaning that if we can take daily action to improve our microbial health while we work to reduce our stress levels, we might be able to find the right answers to living, looking, and feeling our best. Improve Your Gut Health, Optimize Your Stress Response When comprised of abundant numbers of well-nourished beneficial bacteria, your microbiome helps to optimize the body’s response to stress, and also keeps stress’ negative effects on your overall health in check. So, how do your friendly gut flora keep stress in line?

For one, your gut bacteria produce important mood-regulating neurotransmitters like serotonin (the “happiness” chemical) that communicate with the brain and are key when it comes to coping with mental turmoil. Other healthy bacteria in the gut work to help lower cortisol, the notorious “stress” hormone. In one study, medical students preparing for an important test drank probiotic-rich fermented milk or placebo for eight weeks prior to the exam. Students given the fermented milk showed lower cortisol levels, increased serotonin levels, and fewer GI symptoms typically associated with stress and anxiety than students in the control group.

What’s more, human studies show that consuming prebiotics (the indigestible fibers that feed probiotics so they can thrive) also increases the amount of neurotransmitters that affect stress levels. In other words, both supplementing with good gut bacteria and making sure they are well fed helps mitigate stress and its negative effects on your system.

Here are some of the best ways to support your friendly microbes and prioritize your long-term health and wellness:

1. Optimize your diet. It’s easy to make poor dietary choices when you’re overwhelmed or running on empty, but that’s all the more reason to focus on giving your body nourishing foods that fuel the foundation of your health. Because your microbiome changes relatively quickly based on the foods you eat, it’s important to aim for a diet high in whole and plant-based foods with an emphasis on prebiotic fiber. Prebiotics are to probiotics what fertilizer is to a garden — they are specific fibers found in many foods that nourish our healthy bacteria and help them thrive.

2. Take a daily probiotic supplement. (Lactomin and Lactokids!) An effective probiotic, taken consistently, can replenish your populations of good bacteria. Make sure you choose one that provides several different targeted strains of bacteria that can survive your harsh stomach acid to reach deep within the GI tract where they can make their home and get to work for you.

3. Make movement a priority. The research is clear; microbiomes are healthier and more diverse in those who are physically active. And it has to be said that one of the of the best ways to decompress from a stressful day is to exercise. Even walking 30 minutes a day can help melt the stress and it makes a real difference when it comes to your microbial health!

4. Get plenty of sleep. Not only does quality, plentiful sleep help reduce stress and keep you feeling your best physically and emotionally, but research shows that it benefits your gut bacteria as well. In fact, any disruption to your innate circadian rhythms (from lack of sleep or jet lag, for example) can throw off the rhythms of your gut microbes, leading to a depleted microbiome. Do your best to get a solid 7–9 hours of sleep every night — making sleep a priority will pay you back in dividends when it comes to long-term health and vitality.

5. Say no to antibiotics whenever possible. Antibiotics in our food and as medicine are detrimental to our colonies of good bacteria: they wipe out the good guys along with the bad. Do your best to avoid meat, fish and dairy products that may contain antibiotics and check with your doctor to make sure antibiotics are indeed necessary before taking them. Find ways to simplify, shift your perspective, relax, and enjoy more.

Putting first things first and taking care of yourself is top priority.
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