Feeling stressed is so common that most people do not seem to realize how bad it really is for our health. Stress is one of the sneaky causes of poor gut bacteria, bacterial dysbiosis and all the health problems that result. Here is one of the mechanisms or pathways from stressful thought to dysfunctional microbiome.
Stress and the microbiome: One of the primary problems that affects our gut bacteria starts in our heads-Stress. When a person feels anger, fear, anxiety, or other forms of stress the autonomic nervous system goes into sympathetic dominance mode. This is also known as “fight or flight mode”. One of the effects of the sympathetic system is to restrict blood flow to the digestive tract and reduce gut activity as well. This slows digestion or may stop it entirely depending on the extent of the stress. What happens in the intestines is that the sensitive lining, where the microvilli provide increased surface area for absorption, begins to slough off cells and lose microvilli. The permeability of the intestinal mucosal lining may change, resulting in absorption of food molecules that are not digested completely. The immune system will then tag these particles with antibodies, causing a food sensitivity and inflammatory response. The loss of the microvilli and the slowing of movement is quite bad for beneficial gut bacteria, and results in overgrowth of non-beneficial or even harmful species. Ironically, this change in bacterial demographics may alter hormonal, neurotransmitter and brain activation in a pattern…that causes more elevated anxiety, depression and stress response. This forms a positive feedback loop and can make stressful thoughts functionally addictive and self-perpetuating!