Expert Opinion: How Stress Affects Good Gut Health

“While dietary factors such as refined carbohydrates, dairy, caffeine and certain medication may act as triggers. There is a definite emotional component to IBS which needs to be recognised as part of any treatment programme,” says Dr Ela Manga.

Dr Ela Manga is a qualified GP and integrative practitioner. She shares that there is a good reason we refer to the gut as the second brain. And that stress has a major impact.

“The vagus nerve richly innervates the entire gastro-intestinal system. We should be constantly swinging from the sympathetic ‘fight – flight’ mode. To the parasympathetic ‘rest angutd digest’ mode.”

  • When we experience the stress response, the body releases adrenaline and cortisol into the system
  • And blood then moves away from the digestive system towards the muscles and vital organs
  • When the body relaxes, the rest and digest mode kicks in
  • Blood returns to the digestive systems and the the vagus nerve activates
  • As a result, digestive juices flow and the peristalsis in the bowel normalise

She continues: “The body can manage small bouts of the stress response. But when we experience chronic stress and anxiety, there is chronic disruption of the blood flow. This results in the secretion of digestive juices into the digestive tract. This eventually sets up a chain reaction of events:

  • inflammation
  • leaky gut
  • bloating
  • cramping

Mood Disorders & The Gut as A Second Brain

Manga continues: “Neurotransmitters are chemicals that relay messages across nerve fibres, regulating their function. These include:

  • serotoningut
  • dopamine
  • GABA
  • adrenaline

“So it makes sense that many of these receptors are found in the brain. However, interestingly the bowel also has a rich supply of receptors.”

She elaborates: “A hundred million neuro-receptors line the gut, about the same number that are found in the brain. Therefore, nearly every chemical that controls the brain can be found in the gut. It is literally the second brain.”

“As a result, mood disorders that are caused by a drop of levels of neurotransmitters such as serotonin. Will impact the functioning of the bowel because of the number of receptors that are found in cells of the bowel.”

You also require healthy digestion for optimum brain function

Manga shares that: “New research is also coming to light regarding the connection between good bacteria and mood. If the balance of good bacteria in the gut is disrupted for any reason it will have an effect on mood. As well as on stress and brain function.”

She continues: “Part of the function of good bacteria is:

  • to act as an anti-inflammatory,
  • boost the immune system
  • maintain the integrity of lining of the bowel

“Researchers have also shown that mood disorders can be controlled from the ‘bottom up’. They did this by using two specific strains of probiotic bacteria – lactobacillus and bifidobactium.”

If you enjoyed this article, read Sip Your Way To Good Gut Health With Vinegar.