Very often in conversations with students, I hear such words: "Mrs. Sonia, I feel that stress cuts me off from myself, I can see how it affects me, I don't want to feel like this!"
Exactly, we FEEL the stress. The body FEELS. Our body responds to stress as best as it can, although its resources are also limited, it’s bombarded with many impulses from the environment every day, and we often add more to it.
It starts with the digestive system. Stress impairs the functions of our intestinal barrier, which quickly leads to gastrointestinal disorders and the formation of local and then generalized inflammation. Surely each of you has had a situation in which you felt abdominal pain or tension in the abdomen at least once due to the event. And chronic inflammation is the precursor to many different diseases. Increased levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines, i.e. proteins that care for our immunity, are also observed in mental disorders: depression, anxiety, or neurodegenerative diseases. Is it possible that emotions affect the state of the intestines so strongly and vice versa — the state of the intestines translates into the strength of emotions? Yes, that's exactly how it is! And this is because of the brain-gut axis, that is, the connection of our head with the abdomen.
Have you come across the statement that the intestines are the second human brain? If so, I confirm it is true. Evolution caused the intestines to have their own nervous system. It is the ENS (enteric nervous system) that is one of the most important elements of the cerebral and intestinal axis. The digestive tract communicates with the brain, sending signals to it through the vagus nerve, as well as a multitude of substances produced by intestinal bacteria (neurotransmitters and neuromodulators: serotonin, melatonin, gamma-aminobutyric acid — GABA, acetylcholine), the immune system, producing, among others, the cytokines I mentioned, and the endocrine system that produces hormones. There is a constant exchange of information between the digestive tract and the brain. Hence, stress so often causes gastrointestinal ailments, and also the other way around - what happens in our stomach affects our well-being, mood, and mental state. Interestingly, our intestines are definitely more "talkative" than the brain, because they send nine times more signals to the brain than the brain to the intestines. The brain is lazy by nature. Research on the gut microbiota, i.e. the condition of our intestines, proves that by influencing the condition of the intestinal microbiota, it is possible to reduce anxiety, and improve mood and cognitive disorders!
This means that we ourselves can influence our state of mind. There is also evidence that symptoms such as chronic fatigue, headaches, impaired consciousness, difficulty concentrating, depression, arthralgia, abdominal distension, and pain may be related to dysbiosis or bowel dysfunction. In other words, dysbiosis can interfere with our well-being, and when the "good" bacteria are overcome by the "bad" bacteria, various disease entities can develop, often apparently unrelated to the functioning of the digestive system. Bacteria in the digestive tract aid digestion, produce vitamins, fight harmful bacteria, maintain the integrity of the digestive tract walls, and interact with the immune system ("training it" to identify a friend or foe).
Therefore, with a proper diet, probiotics, and paying attention to what I can change in terms of my body, healthy eating is a key activity for me.
Remember about yourself and take care of yourself :)