After a turbulent year of bushfires and COVID-19 disruption, it’s no wonder 64% of Australians are experiencing elevated stress levels. There’s actually a nerve that connects the brain with the gut, so when we feel nervous, anxious, or stressed we can often feel it in the gut. Stress puts intense pressure on our bodies and our guts are significantly affected, with common symptoms including inflammation, indigestion, constipation, loose bowel movements and new food intolerances/allergies.
Our gut health can be really compromised when we experience stress, so nourishing our bodies is more important than ever. Luckily the gut is very adaptable so just a few simple changes can quickly shift the gut microbiome to a healthier state.
Try making these small changes to your lifestyle and diet that can help to reduce your stress levels, provide you with essential nutrients to function properly and will have ongoing benefits for your gut health and ultimately your entire health and wellbeing:
- Practice meditation or yoga
- Incorporate other moderate physical exercise into your day. Try walking twice a day for 15 minutes in the sunlight
- Setting aside time for friends and family every week
- Schedule in a massage or bath on a regular basis
- The most important thing you can do is to get adequate sleep. Try to stop eating at least 4 hours before bed as this can interrupt the amount of quality sleep you get
- Incorporate more leafy greens into meals like kale, spinach and cabbage as they are rich in natural minerals such vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin C, magnesium and antioxidants
- Eat more freshly made meals (for maximum nutrient content). I use the acronym JERF as a reminder (Just Eat Real Food). Eat foods that you make from scratch to avoid preservatives and processed foods that can be really damaging to the gut
- Prioritise vegetables and fruits over pre-packaged or processed foods. Try to eat a rainbow of different coloured foods as they all have difference nutrients, bacteria and benefits to the gut
- Get your dose of probiotics. You can do this naturally without supplements through probiotic drinks like kefir and kombucha or incorporate foods like miso, pickles, tempeh, sourdough bread, and natural unflavoured yoghurt into your diet
- Include more fermented foods, such as kimchi, sauerkraut or miso into your meals. Fermented foods aren’t just a fad, research has proven they are rich in beneficial bacteria, vitamins and essential minerals such as magnesium, iron and zinc that all play a key part in maintaining a healthy gut. Research has also shown that the probiotic strain Bifidobacteria, found in fermented foods such as kefir and yoghurt, has anti-anxiety effects and can reduce cortisol levels in the body, which is the main stress hormone. When I had severe depression, I was sent for cortisol testing and they discovered my cortisol levels were elevated throughout the day – which is how they determined I had a problem
- Reduce the amount of refined sugar you eat as it has a negative impact on your gut health
Kriben Govender, is a Food Scientist and Registered Nutritionist with an Honours degree in Applied Science (Food Science and Technology). Kriben is the Founder of Australia’s premier online gut health store, Nourishme Organics and Founder of Allele Microbiome, a provider of cutting edge Metagenomic Stool Testing and Deuterium Testing. Kriben has more than 20 years of experience in the food industry and specialises in gut health and probiotics. Kriben is also the host of one of Australia’s leading Nutrition Podcasts, The Gut Health Gurus.