If you’re human, you’ve experienced stress at some point. Stress is defined as “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances”. Stress isn’t inherently bad. It can be extremely useful in fight or flight situations due to the triggering of adrenaline. Some researchers have even suggested that manageable amounts of stress help build resilience and mental toughness, preparing us to handle future stressful situations with less detrimental impact. However, too much of anything is no good at all, and this applies even more so to stress.
People on both ends of the spectrum – those who experienced very little stress or a lot of trauma and stress throughout their lives – were the most unhealthy physically and mentally when it came to managing new stress. Yes, that’s correct, people who have experienced very little stress in their lives have a much more difficult time managing stressful situations as adults, and tend to be averse to taking reasonable risks, according to Melanie Greenberg, Ph.D.
The problem with stress is that it is taxing to the brain, and if one experiences extended periods of stress, it can affect the brain, and your overall health, in a very detrimental way.
Why we shouldn’t overlook the gut-brain connection
One thing people tend to overlook in managing stress, depression, and anxiety is the gut-brain connection. The largest organ in the human body is the gut, with billions of organisms called microbiota. It is essential to have a healthy balance of microorganisms within the gut to maintain proper mental and physical health, but with modern-day stressors, the overabundance of antibiotic prescriptions, the SAD (Standard American Diet), and improper regulation of pesticide use on produce maintaining a healthy gut can be quite the challenge. Research has shown the crucial role of gut microbiota in the proper function of the immune and nervous systems, as well as a healthy hormone balance.
So what can you do if you are experiencing a combination of stress, anxiety, depression, gut imbalance, brain fog, and hormonal and immunity problems? The first thing is first, schedule a visit with a doctor. Whether it’s in person, or from the convenience of your home in an online visit, your best option for understanding the proper next steps for YOU is to get a professional opinion. It’s entirely possible that the stress you’re experiencing could be exasperating an already present thyroid condition, like Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, in which the stress impacts specific hormones that influence the function of the thyroid.
If you are looking for helpful steps to start improving your gut microbiome and decrease the negative impacts of stress on your brain, here are a few helpful steps. Nutrition is one of the most important tools to manage stress through a healthy and properly functioning gut. These are important aspects to consider, and shouldn’t be taken lightly.
1. Supplement with Vitamin D3
The first 5 areas of priority in the body for the utilization of therapeutic (regenerative) quantities of vitamin D3 are the brain, small intestine, bones and teeth, stomach, and cartilage. With 13,000 binding sites for Vitamin D3 on human DNA and the critical role Vitamin D3 plays in the development of every single cell in our bodies, it’s one of the most important vitamins you can include in your daily regimen, according to Nancy Jeffers, MD. Without proper Vitamin D3, the brain, muscles, and bones cannot properly repair themselves and can put you at increased risk of cardiovascular disease, depression, muscle and bone weakness, and more. Support your tissue with Vitamin D3 as a foundation for your health.
2. Take Omega-3 Supplements
According to Psychology Today, Omega-3 supplements increase the production of anti-inflammatory compounds, including fatty acids and can beneficially affect the composition of gut microbiota. Foods, including fatty fish like wild Alaskan salmon, contain Omega-3 fatty acids, which have been linked to decreased symptoms of depression and anxiety. Of the three types of omega-3 fatty acids (ALA, EPA, and DHA), EPA has been seen to be the best at fighting depression. Read more about the importance of Omega-3’s here. A good brand to buy is the Nordic Naturals ProOmega-D soft gels.
3. Incorporate Probiotics
An imbalance in the gut means the good bacteria isn’t at the level it should be, and bad bacteria has had the opportunity to overgrow. Probiotics help to naturally restore good bacteria in the gut due to the abundance of live microorganisms. According to an article by Harvard Health, a distraught intestine can send signals to the brain in the same way that a troubled brain can send signals to the gut, which means stomach or intestinal distress can be the cause OR the product of anxiety, stress or depression. You can buy probiotics in capsule form (start with a probiotic with at least 1 billion colony forming units and containing the genus Lactobacillus Bifidobacterium or Saccharomyces boulardii) or find it in fermented foods like sauerkraut, kefir, tempeh, kimchi, yogurt, kombucha, pickles, miso, dark chocolate, or cottage cheese.
4. Start a CBD regimen
Just like vitamins, daily doses of CBD can support your endocannabinoid system in a way that (with consistency) could prevent illness and inflammation. Low, consistent doses of cannabinoids can stimulate the creation of new nerve cells and is a neuroprotectant, removing damaged cells and improving the efficiency of mitochondria. This ultimately means that consistent doses of CBD can help to create resilience in the brain to trauma and degeneration. If used in tincture form, CBD can be added to prepared nutritious foods as part of your mission to repair your gut (and brain). Trustworthy brands like Papa & Barkley, or Elixinol (both Heally brand partners), offer CBD or combination CBD/THC tinctures and other products that help to maintain a healthy endocannabinoid system.
5. Stay hydrated
A report by CBS stated that up to 75% of the American population isn’t getting the recommended 10 cups of water a day. Essentially, most Americans are in a chronic state of dehydration. Water is important to many functions in the body and is required to digest and absorb vitamins and nutrients. There’s no point in taking all of those supplements if your body can’t properly utilize them. Water helps to detoxify the kidneys and liver and keeps the engine of our bodies clean by carrying waste away. For example, when we consume water it helps to break down waste and nutrients in the cell so that they can be moved through the various membranes and natural filters in the body. Every cell in our bodies contain water and need water to properly function. If you know you are not getting enough water, make a point to increase your intake to aid your body in keeping the engine clean and well lubricated in the process.
Sleep is essential for life. If an organism is deprived of sleep for long enough, they die. It’s crucial for regeneration, the storing of energy, and for fighting off illness. Depression and lack of sleep have been tied to each other in many studies, and a vicious cycle of loss of sleep and increased depression can spiral downward quickly. When the body cannot properly repair during sleep, appetite becomes erratic, fatigue increases, cognition becomes strained, and the immune system struggles. For many, getting proper sleep may be difficult due to a range of life obstacles. If possible, work toward setting a bedtime range and sticking to it. A set sleep schedule has the potential to make a big difference in long-term overall health.
Getting stress and anxiety under control may feel like an uphill battle, and for many it is, but we can take some of the mystical confusion out of restoring our gut and overall wellness by looking to the foundational aspects of health. Water, nutrient and vitamin-rich foods, natural plant medicine, and sleep are the pillars of health and should be considered the most important foundational aspects of keeping our health on track. If we start by getting those key elements of our lifestyle in check, we take a piece of control back in an otherwise uncontrollable world.
By Bri Smith
This website is informational and cannot diagnose or treat illness or disease. Medical cannabis aka marijuana should be used under the direction of a licensed healthcare provider. This site is intended for adults and legal medical marijuana patients. This site contains links to products we sell on our marketplace.
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