Modern life is full of chronic stressors. These are often subtly present in your life, from smart devices and increasingly long work hours, to an ever-growing to-do list and a range of commitments that bombard you from every angle. And more and more diseases are associated with it. Review the stress and bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) connection in the information below.
These increased stress levels affect your mind and body more than you realize. Emotional stress is a major contributor to the six leading causes of death in the US alone: cancer, coronary heart disease, accidental injury, respiratory disease, cirrhosis of the liver, and suicide.
The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that stress accounts for about 75% of all doctor visits. These patients report having heart problems, an upset stomach, ulcers, insomnia, fatigue, back pain, and headaches, among others.
Stress also increases your risk for diabetes, especially in overweight people.
Connection between stress and bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)
Stress can even lead to small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), as it directly affects your digestive system. SIBO is an intestinal infection that occurs when bacteria begin to colonize the small intestine and multiply.
Normally, the majority of intestinal bacteria reside in the large intestine and colon, while the small intestine is usually quite sterile. However, certain factors such as a high carbohydrate diet, nerve or muscle damage in the stomach, dysmotility, and some medications can cause an abnormal reserve of bacteria in the small intestine.
SIBO can cause a number of uncomfortable symptoms including gas and bloating, diarrhea, fatigue, and rosacea or other skin rashes.
Now let's take a deeper look at how exactly stress and bacterial overgrowth are related, then we'll look at some simple strategies you can use to protect your body from stress and prevent (or overcome) SIBO.
Stress prevents the body from producing gastric acid
When your body is healthy, the stomach secretes gastric acid to kill ingested bacteria before they enter the small intestine. However, if your HPA axis, the hormonal subsystem in your body that controls stress hormones, is out of balance due to increased stress, your body does not produce enough stomach acid to kill the necessary bacteria.
This is a protective mechanism that your body has in place to ensure sufficient energy reserves for a fight or flight situation. However, in our modern world, the constant stress we endure can transform this protective mechanism into chronic and continuous low-level production of gastric acid, allowing bacteria to enter the small intestine, proliferate, and promote the development of SIBO.
Stress causes dysmotility
The muscles in your digestive tract have a way of sweeping residual undigested food and other matter through your gastrointestinal tract between meals, a type of peristalsis known as a migratory motor complex.
However, when stress hormones are released into the bloodstream, these muscles simply stop doing their job, or do it less efficiently, allowing bacteria to build up and causing food to stagnate, which ferments and further feeds the bacteria in the gut.
On top of that, when you are stressed, you have probably realized that you are looking for unhealthy snacks, or as it is also well known: it makes you want to “eat stress”.
This is because stress prompts your body to produce more cortisol, which causes your blood sugar levels to fluctuate, leading to frequent snacking and overeating.
This constant influx of food prevents your digestive tract from fully completing its "cleanse," adding to the problem by creating a breeding ground for bacteria.
Stress affects mucosal immunity
We have often heard about the relationship between your gut and the autoimmune spectrum. However, you may not have heard of secretory immunoglobulin A (IgA) before.
This antibody serves as the first line of defense to protect your intestinal wall from toxins and pathogenic microorganisms. It blocks your access to receptors in your intestinal lining, traps them in mucus, and aids in their physical removal from your intestine.
However, can you imagine what happens when you are stressed? Yes, your body produces less of this antibody to conserve energy, which can increase your risk of bacterial overgrowth within your intestines.
Stress and bacterial overgrowth increase your risk of infection
Did you know that stress hormones actually make life easier for bacteria? Stress promotes bacterial attachment to tissues and increases the risk of infection.
Stress promotes the development of biofilms
Biofilms or biofilms are a community of microorganisms that share nutrients and DNA. Unfortunately, biofilms also protect bacteria from herbs and antimicrobial supplements used to help repair the gut and keep conditions like SIBO at bay, so preventing their build-up is essential for optimal health.
This is another reason why you need to keep your stress levels in check. Stress hormones and other substances involved in the stress response, including cortisol and catecholamines, promote biofilm formation by helping pathogenic bacteria access the nutrients they need to stay in your body.
What to do to manage stress and beat SIBO training
Fortunately, there are many ways to prevent these biofilms from forming, as well as to help your body fight SIBO and keep it healthy in the long run. Here are some solutions you can start implementing right away:
There is no best way to manage and relieve stress. You'll quickly discover what works best for you personally, so you can design the perfect de-stress routine for you. Here are some favorite stress relieving strategies:
Infrared sauna therapy
You may be able to have your own infrared saun, or you may prefer to go to one at a natural spa or other facility. You can find one near your house. Infrared saunas help you relax and detoxify your body. It is recommended to use them at least twice a week to relieve stress.
Gentle exercise and body work
Whether it's yoga, taking a long walk, or taking your bike to the park on the weekend, gentle exercise can eliminate stress. Massage and bodywork can also be easily added to your monthly routine and can even improve bowel function and help with constipation.
Practice mindful time management
Have you ever been overwhelmed by your to-do list? Prioritization is very important now because it's so easy for your commitments to pile up and become a source of daily stress that only gets worse over time. This is not an easy exercise for many people. However, choosing carefully where you spend your time and eliminating unnecessary obligations is the key to a more restful and restful lifestyle.
Turn off the news
While staying informed can be beneficial, watching too much news can bombard your brain with unnecessarily distressing information. Try to keep your exposure to this negativity to a minimum by regularly disconnecting from all social media and devices.
Keeping all the screens out of your room each night is a wonderful place to start. As an added benefit, you will avoid exposure to blue night light that can interrupt your sleep, and as you know, a good night's sleep is essential for stress relief!
Fight SIBO with stress reducing adaptogens
Adaptogens are a class of herbs that help your body adapt to internal and external stress, normalize your body's functions, and can be used safely in the long term. They can help you prevent stress and bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) directly, as well as improve the way your body's digestive system responds to it.
This Ayurvedic herb has been shown to calm the mind and boost immune function. By increasing adrenal function, it can also balance stress hormones, relieve anxiety, and help with adrenal fatigue, as well as prevent stress-induced ulcers.
Maca against stress and bacterial overgrowth
This Andean herb has been shown to improve the absorption of iron in your digestive tract, as well as balance your entire hormonal system and increase your energy levels and overall vitality.
This herb has been used for centuries in China, and is one of the most revered roots in traditional Chinese medicine. It has been shown to help with weight loss, stress, depression, and anxiety, among many other benefits.
This powerful plant actually prevents cortisol secretion, as well as offering antidepressant and heart-protective effects.
In addition to being a Chinese herb that increases energy levels and helps you burn fat for energy, Eleuthero helps you stabilize your blood sugar, avoiding overeating and reaching for sugary snacks between meals.
All of these adaptogenic herbs can be found in the supplement in health food stores. Also, along with these herbs, you can acquire vitamin C, L-tyrosine, and key B vitamins to help your body deal with physical and emotional stressors more easily and prevent them from leading to SIBO.
Managing stress is a key part of improving your health. Not only will this help you repair your gut, it will also help you achieve vibrant, lifelong health and wellness through the prevention and reversal of chronic diseases.