I got sick a few years ago, with IBS type symptoms, that turned out to be due to parasites in my gut (Blastocystis Hominis and Dientamoeba Fragilis to name names!).
Nowadays, I’ve cleared up the parasites but that doesn’t mean I don’t get gut symptoms anymore.
Occasionally I get a flare-up of symptoms, and what I’ve noticed is this happens at the times when I’m the most stressed out, even when my diet is still good. And this happens for many other people.
We can have our diet dialed so that it’s perfect, and we can be exercising regularly and getting enough sleep, but if we are constantly stressed out, this can be causing us problems.
And this is backed up by research in mice, that have found stress affects the gut microbiota to the same degree as a poor diet.
From what we know, when we are stressed out and in flight or fight mode, blood is redirected from our gut and digestion to the muscles so we are ready to run away from a perceived threat. In the body’s view, digestion is just not important at that time. As the gut is serviced by a multitude of neurons, it makes perfect sense that stress and our modern hectic lives affects our gut.
What this means is that if we are our stressed, our attempts to treat small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), parasites, or IBS may not be effective, or they appear to work, but symptoms soon return after treatment. We need to address our stress to balance our gut microbiota and the messages the gut sends to the brain via the gut-brain axis.
And yes, this can be hard!
It can be easier to pop a pill, or change your diet, rather than address stress which can seem to be just a result of a modern lifestyle. We may need to take a step back, and deeply see how we relate to ourselves and all aspects of our lives.
Everything is Information
Our brains are constantly monitoring all aspects of our physiology, including our breath hormones, nervous system and gut, as well as the outside world. Every situation we find ourselves in and every thought we have affects our body’s chemistry on a molecular level.
The brain is always calculating am I safe or am I under threat
One of the big issues with the way we treat stress today is that we tackle it from only one angle. Whereas our stress levels are built up by many small stressful events throughout the day. We can’t tackle overwhelm from work stress, solely by meditating for 15 minutes in the morning or having a glass of wine after work.
It is better to work with stress in all its forms: psychological, emotional, technological, dietary, physical and chemical stress. Michael Neil offers a good introduction on ending psychological and emotional stress here.