Did you know what goes on in your gut can dictate your mood, your perspective, and your sense of optimism?
Having earned the title of the second brain, the gut is in constant dialogue with the:
Everyday stress could cause harmless microbes in your body to become pathogenic! These bacteria will rapidly multiply and mutate, leaving you at risk for an infection.
- Immune system
- Brain and neurological system
- Hormonal system
- Our inner ecology
As it turns out, psychological stress can do more than influence the integrity of our own cells. Scientists have found that the bacteria living inside of us can actually detect whether or not we feel stress. (4)
These stress hormones are meant to protect us during potentially dangerous events. They move energy stores into the muscle, increasing our heart rate and our breath. And in the process, cortisol and norepinephrine shut down our digestive system and our immune system.
The bacteria that are normally present in the digestive system can read stress in the body and detect the presence of stress hormones. Researchers have found that usually harmless microbes will suddenly become pathogenic in response to the stress hormones that we release. (5) (6)
When bacteria become pathogenic, they multiply rapidly or mutate, and this often leads to infection. Once this happens, the inner ecology of the gut is thrown out of balance.
Keep in mind that stress not only signals bacteria to multiply and mutate, it also shuts down the digestive system and the immune system. These systems usually protect us from disease. This means that when we experience stress, we are more vulnerable than ever to bacterial overgrowth and infection.
Once the inner ecology of the gut becomes imbalanced, the door opens for a wide range of health conditions to develop and manifest.
In addition to the unnoticed stressors of daily living, many of us spend a great deal of time feeling stress. Whether this stress involves global catastrophes, family drama, or personal struggles, the body releases the same stress hormones.
These stress hormones can ultimately contribute to a long list of health disorders, including infection from opportunistic bacteria.
As it turns out, the health of the digestive system is central to how good we feel on a daily basis. And our mental wellbeing influences whether or not the bacteria normally present in the digestive tract are able to cause disease.
This is why we have found that one of the best ways to consistently generate health is to eat fermented foods on a daily basis and, if possible, at every meal!
Diet can help to modulate the effects of stress in the body. Especially when the diet:
1. Contains plenty of fermented foods. Truly fermented foods have several beneficial strains of bacteria that keep overgrowth and infection in check when the body’s defenses are down.
Beneficial bacteria found in fermented foods and probiotic beverages do things like soothe intestinal cells that have become inflamed and gently stimulate the movement of food through the intestinal tract. The multiple functions of beneficial gut bacteria are so important that some scientists refer to our inner ecology as a “virtual organ.” (7)
2. Contains foods that support the growth of beneficial bacteria. This means choosing foods that keep the body in a slightly alkaline state.
While everyone is different in their response to food, there are some foods that are notoriously pro-inflammatory and best avoided. These are:
- Foods with added sugar or refined sugar.
- Processed foods.
- Foods containing industry byproduct oils, such as canola, safflower, vegetable, soy, and corn oil.
What to Remember Most About This Article:
The health of your gut can influence your mood, which is why it’s often referred to as the second brain. Suffering from gastrointestinal inflammation can contribute to issues like depression, and conversely, mental stress can cause a leaky gut. In fact, scientists have discovered that the bacteria in your body can detect when you feel stress!
Stress hormones can trigger your digestion to go into a fight-or-flight response. This can cause normally harmless microbes to become pathogenic in reaction to the stress hormones released by your body - leading to infection. This vicious cycle throws the inner ecology of your digestive system quickly out of balance.
The good news is that you can change your diet to change the bacteria in your body. Supporting your digestive health will support your mood on a day-to-day basis. Start out with:
- A diet rich in fermented foods and probiotic beverages to support your gut with beneficial bacteria to keep infection at bay.
- A diet that will keep your body in a slightly alkaline state. Acidic foods are known to cause inflammation and trigger an immune response, creating further physiological stress.
- T Surdea-Blaga, et al. Psychosocial determinants of irritable bowel syndrome. World J Gastroenterol. 2012 Feb 21;18(7):616-26.
- PC Konturek, et al. Stress and the gut: pathophysiology, clinical consequences, diagnostic approach and treatment options. J Physiol Pharmacol. 2011 Dec;62(6):591-9.
- A Nazli, et al. Epithelia under metabolic stress perceive commensal bacteria as a threat. Am J Pathol. 2004 Mar;164(3):947-57.
- MT Bailey, et al. Exposure to a social stressor alters the structure of the intestinal microbiota: Implications for stressor-induced immunomodulation. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity. March 2011. 25; 3: 397-407.
- L Li, et al. Global effects of catecholamines on Actinobacillus pleuropneumoniae gene expression. PLoS One. 2012;7(2):e31121. Epub 2012 Feb 8.
- TA Cogan, et al. Norepinephrine increases the pathogenic potential of Campylobacter jejuni. Gut. 2007 Aug;56(8):1060-5. Epub 2006 Dec 21.
- AM O’Hara, et al. The gut flora as a forgotten organ. EMBO Rep. 2006 Jul;7(7):688-93.