It’s National Stress Awareness Day. If you’ve been nervous before an interview or presentation, you’re probably well aware of the link between your gut and stress.
Due to more research and better technology, we know a lot more about how our gut works, and the gut-brain axis – the communication between the brain and the gut and how it influences emotions like stress.
If you’ve felt butterflies before a big presentation or exam, you’ll know that the effect of emotions on the gut can be obvious, but we now know that the communication goes both ways. The health of your gut microbiota (the collective term for all the bacteria, fungi and other bugs that live in your digestive tract) also influences your mood and levels of anxiety.
It’s not just short-term stresses like an interview or exam that affects the gut, chronic stress can profoundly affect the gut too. It’s possibly no surprise in today’s fast paced, high pressured world that stress related conditions like Irritable Bowel Syndrome are so common; it is estimated that 1 in 5 of the UK population suffer from this stress related gut disorder.
So, what are three simple dietary tweaks you can do to improve your gut health, which may help your stress levels too.
- Be more adventurous – We are creatures of habit, this includes what we eat. Having a more varied diet, especially eating a wider range of plant floods, helps give your gut bacteria lots of different fibres to feed from making them happy and proliferate. So, if you always buy the same variety of apple, next time you shop try a different variety. If you always add kidney beans to your chilli, add a tin of mixed beans instead. You can increase the variety of what you eat in simple ways
- Try some fermented foods -kimchi, kefir, sauerkraut, kombucha, cultured yogrut, to name a few, not only add some good microbes into your gut, but they are delicious and different taste.
- Up your fibre – fibre is what your gut microbes feed on. The more they get the better. Think wholemeal rather than white, keep the skin on your fruit and veg and add seeds and nuts when you can.