What we treat
why h+yHormones 101FAQsAccountContact
get treated

How are stress and gut health linked?

16 May, 2024

Discussions about gut health are everywhere at the moment. From gut-friendly food recipes filling up social media feeds to health experts chirping on about keeping your gut microbiome healthy. But this is not just a social media-fueled health fad. More and more research is showing just how important it is to take care of your gut and the slew of health benefits that it brings. 

Did you know that stress is a leading cause of poor gut health? Stress upsets the delicate balance of good bacteria in your gut and can cause some very unwanted health issues. So, let’s dive into more detail about how stress and gut health are linked and what you can do to keep your gut in good health. 

Stress and Gut Health 

Stress is not good for your health, we all know this. But the effects of stress on the gut and how this in turn affects both your physical and mental health have only just started coming into public consciousness. We are all familiar with having butterflies in our stomach but what impact does stress have on our gut? 

When stressed, your brain sends signals to your gut, affecting your digestion, gut motility, which is the movement of food, and the bacteria that make up your gut microbiome. But why? Well, it's all to do with how your gut responds to stress hormones, which disrupt the balance of your gut environment, leading to a variety of health issues.

The Gut-brain Axis

Your gut and brain are intricately connected in what scientists call the gut-brain axis. This is the communication between your brain and gastrointestinal tract. That’s right, your brain and gut are in constant communication and influence each other in loads of different ways. They communicate through a combination of hormones, nerves, and immune cells. It’s no wonder that the gut is often termed your body's second brain. 

While the brain has a direct effect on your gut, so too does the gut affect the brain, and studies are only just finding out how much so. It's giving a whole new meaning to the phrase listen to your gut. Now we are beginning to understand just how important gut health is for our body to be in solid working order.

Your Gut Microbiome 

Your gut is made up of trillions of bacteria that are known as your gut microbiome which is greatly affected by stress. During stress, your body releases hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones can disrupt the balance of good and bad bacteria in your gut. A belly full of bad bacteria can cause inflammation, digestive issues, and a weakened immune system. Stress can also directly affect your digestive system. It can slow down the production of saliva and digestive enzymes, stopping your body from breaking down food properly. It also causes your gut muscles to cramp and spasm which can cause stomach pains and  constipation. 

How Your Gut Health Affects Your Hormones 

It is well known that stress can cause a hormonal imbalance. But did you know that bad gut health can have a knock-on effect on your hormones too? Progesterone, oestrogen, and testosterone can all be affected by an unhealthy gut microbiome, which in turn can impact your mood, libido, energy levels, and sleep. If the bad bacteria begin to take over, this leads to an unhealthy gut and has also been linked to weight gain and chronic diseases, and even cancer.

Leaky Gut Syndrome 

Chronic stress can cause what is known as leaky gut syndrome. This is when your gut lining becomes damaged and allows substances like bacteria and undigested food particles to leak into your bloodstream, triggering an autoimmune response.

Symptoms of a leaky gut can vary but here are a few to look out for: 

  • Bloating

  • Stomach pain

  • Constipation

  • Diarrhoea

  • Nutritional deficiencies

  • Food sensitivities

  • Fatigue

  • Headaches

  • Confusion

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Skin problems, like acne, rashes, or eczema

  • Joint pain

  • Inflammation

  •  Weakened immune system

Mental Health and Your Gut

Having strong gut health is not just important for your physical health. Studies show just how much your gut impacts your mental health too. Anxiety and depression have been linked to unhealthy gut microbiomes. Your gut produces 95% of all the serotonin in your body and around 50% of your dopamine. These neurotransmitters are all essential for your mental health.

Serotonin is known as the feel-good neurotransmitter. It sends signals to your brain that regulate your mood and sleep and also helps with digestion. So for you to maintain your mood and mental sanity your gut microbiome needs to be healthy and balanced.

Exacerbating Your Gut Issues

If you already have a gut condition like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), stress can worsen your symptoms. High levels of cortisol flooding your systems can trigger flare-ups of IBS, meaning increased stomach pain, bloating, and frequent trips to the bathroom. So what can be done to keep your gut healthy?

How to Heal Your Gut

When it comes to stress and gut health there are two ways to combat the problem. First is dealing with the stress so it doesn't play havoc with your gut. But this may be easier said than done when you have a lot on your plate. The second is making sure your gut microbe is fighting fit and full of good bacteria. 

So here is a list of handy tips to help make sure your gut is healthy and happy.

Eat a high-fibre diet- fibre is essential for feeding the good bacteria in your gut. So include plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes in your diet.

Fill up on prebiotics and probiotics - prebiotics feed your gut bacteria, while probiotics add more friendly bacteria into your stomach. Fermented foods are the best such as yoghurt, kefir, kimchi and sauerkraut. 

Limit processed food - high in sugar, unhealthy fats, and artificial ingredients processed foods are a big no-no for a healthy gut. 

Drink plenty of water - staying hydrated helps keep things moving smoothly through your digestive system. If you catch our drift.

Get enough sleep - aim for around 8 hours of sleep each night. This is great for not only your gut health but also for your overall wellbeing, mood and physical health. If you are having trouble nodding off, then this could be down to a lack of melatonin that's disturbing your sleep/wake cycle. If so, our pharmaceutical-grade melatonin capsules may be the answer you are looking for. 

Exercise regularly - physical activity helps to regulate digestion and can also improve the diversity of gut bacteria. Plus, it also helps relieve stress, so it’s a win-win.

At Hormones and You, we offer smart hormone solutions that help you take control of your health and wellbeing. So, if you are feeling a bit out of balance, then start an online consultation now and find the perfect treatment personalised to you. 

Get Started
Pharmacy owner: The London Specialist Pharmacy Ltd (GPhC: 9010630)Address: Specialist Pharmacy, Londoneast-UK Business & Technical Park, Yew Tree Avenue, Dagenham, RM10 7FNSuperintendent Pharmacist: Rizvan Batha (GPhC: 2080291)Pharmacy Contact Information: - 020 7637 1055© 2023, Gluck International Limited, All Rights Reserved, is a company registered in England and Wales with the number 09753512. You-nique are trademarks of Hormones and You.