Stress is an all-too-common feature of our modern lifestyle. Daily life is made up of so many little stressors: traffic, meetings, social pressures, deadlines, parking, the list goes on. You already know that stress affects both your physical and mental wellbeing, but how does this happen?
Why is the gut so important?
Gut health is often overlooked when it comes to mental wellbeing - after
all, your gut is nowhere near your brain! But it may surprise you to learn that your gut is in charge of more than just processing your food.
Your gut has what is called a “microbiome”, a collection of trillions of microorganisms, each with their own genetic material, and each running functions that are crucial to your health and wellbeing. In fact, there are significantly more bacteria in your microbiome, than there are stars in the milky way.
How does the gut talk to the brain?
The gut is connected to the brain through a bidirectional link between the central nervous system (the network of nerves controlling your body’s activity, including that of your brain) and the enteric nervous system. The enteric nervous system, located all along the lining of your gastrointestinal system (from mouth to anus), is often referred to as your “second brain”, thanks to its direct connection with the central nervous system. Your gut and brain send messages to each other through this link, so if one is underperforming, so will the other.
What does that mean for my mental wellbeing?
With both systems working together so intimately, this means it’s impossible to separate your mental wellbeing from your physical wellbeing. If you don’t manage stress long term for example, that stress will then affect your gut health, which in turn, chips away at both your mental and physical wellbeing.
This vicious cycle can wear you down over time, but it is a cycle you can break! A couple of simple lifestyle changes can make a big difference and if you can maintain some consistency, building on those changes can completely change your life.