My friend and long-time bowel health advocate, Brenda Watson, sent me a copy of her new book, The Skinny Gut Diet: Balance Your Digestive System For Permanent Weight Loss.
While the title highlights the diet and weight loss aspect, this new book is really a detailed discussion about the wonderful effects gained by properly managing bowel flora. In addition to insights on how bowel flora impact on weight, she also discusses how it influences brains and emotions, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, diarrhea, autoimmunity, and other conditions. Here are her comments on the effects of stress on bowel flora:
Most people I meet who are facing health challenges state that they are stressed—stressed at work, stressed with family drama, or stressed with being a caretaker. Stress plays a prominent role in virtually everyone’s life. From endless to-do lists and extended workdays to responsibilities and deadlines at every turn, chronic stress is the norm in modern life. The detrimental effects of stress are often discussed—-poor heart health, emotional upheaval, inability to concentrate, and digestive disruptions—but what you may not have considered is that stress has an effect on the balance of your gut bacteria.
Decreases in the beneficial bacteria Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, and increased susceptibility to infections have been demonstrated in animal studies evaluating the effects of stress on the gut. Researchers have also found shifts in the proportions of some gut bacterial species in people experiencing stress from anger or fear. Chronic stress has been found to decrease the abundance of Bacteroides bacteria (generally considered beneficial) and increase Clostridium bacteria (some are potentially pathogenic) along with inflammation.46 And emotional stress can lead to long-term reductions in both Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria. 47 Recent studies support the role of probiotics in alleviating stress-induced alterations of gut function, particularly by reducing intestinal permeability, or leaky gut, which further highlights the importance of gut bacterial balance for people under stress. Bifidobacteria have also been found to be extremely sensitive to emotional stress as well as stressful physical demands.
In addition to altering the gut bacteria, chronic stress also disturbs the intestinal lining, increasing leaky gut and the amount of bacterial toxins in circulation. Fortunately, probiotics can reverse these effects. In one study, probiotics were found to decrease stress response by preventing the destruction of the intestinal lining and decreasing the amount of circulating bacterial toxins. By rebalancing the gut, the harmful effects of stress can be reversed. Now that’s a stress reliever! By taking probiotics you can lessen the effects of stress on your body and mind.
Brenda has compiled a powerful and comprehensive conversation about how and why it is imperative that you cultivate healthy bowel flora for health. There’s also a helpful and detailed discussion about the proper way to manage probiotics, an issue that Brenda has championed for many years.
The Skinny Gut Diet is scheduled for release October 7, 2014. Nice work, Brenda!