The Neuroscience of how stress impacts your Mind - Gut Connection

Sep 08, 2022

In the past few years there has been a lot of talk about the importance of the mind-gut connection, but what exactly is it and how does it impact your digestive system? In this blog post we explore the neuroscience of your mind-body connection and the way stress can affect your health. 

Your mind and body are inextricably linked.  In order to understand how stress impacts your mind-body connection, it's important to understand the neuroscience behind stress.

The science behind the stress

When you're stressed, your body goes into fight-or-flight mode. This is a survival mechanism that dates back to our caveman days. In fight-or-flight mode, your body is preparing for physical activity. Your heart rate and blood pressure increase, and your body releases stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol.

This mind-body connection is mediated by the nervous system. The nervous system is divided into two parts: the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) also known as “fight or flight”, and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) “rest and digest” state.

Flight, flight and spikes in cortisol

The SNS is responsible for the fight-or-flight response. It's activated in times of stress or danger. When the SNS is activated, it increases heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration.

The PNS is responsible for the rest-and-digest response. It's activated in times of rest or relaxation. When the PNS is activated, it decreases heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration.

The mind-gut connection is also influenced by the gut-brain axis. The gut-brain axis is a two-way communication system between the gut and the brain. The gut has its own nervous system, called the enteric nervous system (ENS).

The ENS is often referred to as the "second brain" because it's so closely linked to the brain. In fact, the ENS has more neurons than the spinal cord!

The gut-brain axis is important for mind-body communication because it allows the gut to send signals to the brain. These signals can influence our mood, digestion, stress levels, and overall health.

So, how does stress impact the mind-body connection? 

When we're stressed, our body goes into fight-or-flight mode. This activates the SNS and releases stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. 

When we’re stressed, digestion is no longer a priority as the body is in survival mode, and when our stress responses are chronically activated over time, this dysregulates the brain-gut axis and can lead to many digestive issues, as well as increasing hypersensitivity in the gut. 

Stress can also impact the mind-body connection by affecting the gut-brain axis. When we're stressed, our body releases cortisol. Cortisol increases inflammation in the gut and can disrupt the delicate balance of good and bad bacteria. This can lead to gastrointestinal problems like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

How regulating your stress levels will improve your IBS

The mind-body connection is a complex system that is constantly being impacted by stress. When you can learn to regulate your stress levels and listen to your body, it will perform better. If you're feeling stressed, it's important to take care of your mind and body. 

- Consider relaxation techniques like meditation, yoga, breathing exercises, or hypnosis. 

- Make sure to eat a healthy diet and get enough sleep! 

- Avoid caffeine and alcohol. 

- Exercise regularly. 

- Spend time with friends and family. 

- Take breaks during the day. 

- Do something that you enjoy every day.

If you’re curious to know more about simple ways you can reduce stress and improve your gut-health download our free affirmations track to instantly soothe your gut and reduce anxiety today! 

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