It’s only natural that many of us are feeling quite stressed and anxious at the moment, which can have a direct impact on our gut, thanks to the gut-brain axis – the constant two-way communication between our gut and our brain.
Typically when we feel stressed (because our brain tells us we are), our gut function also gets stressed, which can help to explain why some people struggle to poop when they’re stressed.
For some, stress can also trigger diarrhoea. Interestingly IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), it’s actually considered a disorder of the gut-brain axis, when the communication between the two is out of whack.
So what can you do to help combat stress and rewire the gut-brain axis at home?
Here are a few strategies to try wherever you are.
The ‘do-nothing’ exercise, thanks to the brilliant psychologist Kimberly Wilson. Pin point a time in the day to do absolutely nothing. Place a notepad and pen beside you then set a timer for 10 mins (remember to switch your phone to silent!). Lie down so there’s not even any physical stimulation and rest your hands on your tummy or by your side. Take 1-2 deep breaths then consider 3 questions: How does your body feel? What mood are you in? What’s happening in your mind? Try to stay with these, then after 10 mins, write down what you notice. This is a great way to start challenging negative thoughts and mental habits – there’s a more detailed guide in my book.
Try doing just 15 minutes a day of meditation, or using a mindfulness app like Headspace, which has been shown to make a significant difference after 9 weeks.
Start with a yoga flow. Yoga has been shown to decrease markers of inflammation in the blood (yep, the yogies were right after all!) and have benefits in people with high blood pressure. For those with IBS, gut-directed yoga has also been found to be as effective as diet changes for reducing IBS symptoms (full flow created with Richie Norton in my book Eat Yourself Healthy & Love Your Gut.