During the coronavirus pandemic, a lot of people deal with stress and anxiety. It is therefore not surprising that many people have been reportedly reaching out to medical professionals for help for their mental health. But did you know that having mental problems can also affect your gut health?
Apparently, the gut and the brain are in constant communication, so one affects the other and vice versa. When the gut is experiencing problems, it sends signals to the brain. For instance, gastrointestinal inflammation has been linked to mental illnesses like depression and anxiety. In a similar fashion, the brain also sends signals to the gut. Hence, when you are going through stress and anxiety, your gut could also be affected.
Before diving deep into this concept, it is important to know what stress is at first. According to Cleveland Clinic, stress is a reaction of the body to any type of mental, physical or emotional change that requires response or adjustment. Though stress is a normal part of life, too much of it can be problematic especially when one is having a hard time dealing with it.
There is this thing called gut-brain axis, which refers to the bidirectional connection between the brain and the gut. The gastrointestinal system houses the enteric nervous system or the neurons and glial cells that are in the gut. Though it is only partially understood because of its complexity, the system helps explain how stress can impact gut health.
“There’s a complex interplay between stress hormone levels, bowel function, and sensation of pain. These are topics people often don’t want to talk about, but they’re among the most common reasons people seek care in the ER,” gastroenterologist and clinical associate professor of medicine at NYU Langone Health David Poppers, MD, PhD, said.
Per Well+Good, the healthy bacteria, fungi and virus or the microbiome in the gut also plays a role in the stress-gut interaction. They do not only help digest food materials and promote good immunity, they also help produce mood-regulating compounds like serotonin. When you are subjected to intense stress, the microbiome can be affected and it won’t be able to function properly.