Over the last two years, we have seen and experienced an enormous amount of stress and difficulty. From the beginning of the pandemic, there was so much uncertainty about the new world that was unfolding. From quarantine to loss of work to loss of our daily life as we knew it, there was an abundant amount of anxiety spreading within our communities. In a race to find the best way to stay healthy, the stress of life situations started wrecking our health in many ways, including our gut.
Stress, especially over a long period of time, becomes chronic stress. This causes inflammation in the body. In the gut, billions of tiny bacteria live to digest food and insure proper absorption throughout the body. Stress impacts and kills off these very important creatures. The relationship between stress, the viability of the bacteria in our gut and our mental health are all connected.
It is no secret that stress plays a role in how our digestive system works. It seems to work the other way around as well, as hunger can play a role in our mood. High-stress levels cause the bowels to work overtime, and hunger brings on feelings of impatience and frustration. Since these two are linked, we can look at the last two years and easily see how so many people gained weight, suffered from inflammation and experienced feelings of anxiety and depression.
As we move into a post-pandemic world, we can now re-evaluate our health and specifically look at how the pandemic impacted us individually. Then, we can identify ways to heal. Research has shown that gut bacteria produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) when digesting fiber. SCFAs are utilized in the colon to create energy, making them a very important part of gut health.
Having an abundance of SCFAs has also been shown to improve mood, reduce anxiety and influence stress-related gut damage. The term “leaky gut” is used to describe the damage done in the intestinal tract in which undigested food particles and bacteria can leak into the bloodstream. This is where chronic stress leads to inflammation. Inflammation is the result of the particles being leaked into the bloodstream. Feeding the body more fiber then helps create more SCFAs, providing healthy energy and cleaning up the gut.
This is great information because fiber is easy to incorporate into our everyday nutrition plan. Fruits, vegetables, nuts and whole grains are all high in fiber. By boosting our body’s natural defenses, we can fight inflammation and reduce further damage.
The last two years were full of the unexpected, bringing stress and frustration. As a new year dawns and we settle into a healing process, look to reducing stress and eating more fruits and vegetables. Healing the gut will reduce inflammation and bring back energy! The post-pandemic era is here, and we will thrive!
About the Author
Coach Kati Epps is the founder of MyBody GX with a background in chemistry from Colorado State University, an ACE certified personal trainer, health coach and nutrition specialist.