Stress. It feels like an emotion, an unwelcoming presence, an intruder. It’s a six letter word but despite this, has the capability of being an overbearing pressure we face commonly. Whether it’s work, family, or any other life-related inconvenience, stress creeps in on us and can affect our mental and physical health. As a college student during the pandemic who is currently dealing with the transition to remote learning, I’ve become vulnerable to stress and its effects. I eat less, sometimes eat more, and occasionally deal with an upset stomach. As common as it is, chronic stress can wreak havoc on our bodies.
As the brain interacts with every neuron in our body, our gut can sense stress. Ever felt butterflies in your stomach prior to a presentation, job interview, or any other nerve-wracking commitment? This anxious feeling of stress affects how our gut communicates with our brain. It takes on physical consequences including pain and bloating. This form of discomfort results in bowel disruption, leading to diarrhea or constipation.
Common stress-related gut symptoms and conditions include:
- stomach cramps
- loss of appetite
- unnatural hunger
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
- peptic ulcers
What steps can you take to combat your stress?
It’s essential to tend to our body when it’s asking for help. When we become stressed, we must take initiative to aid our mental and physical health. Something as simple as changing up your diet can help a great deal. Often we can become susceptible to damaging habits in the time of stress, including smoking, drinking, consuming caffeine. Be resilient, and focus on what your body would truly benefit from.
For instance, Matcha, a metabolism booster and a rich in antioxidant powdered green tea, has been researched to show it’s stress-reducing effect. For a healthier kick, try adding it into your bowl of oatmeal or adding a couple of teaspoons into a nutritious smoothie. Consider other foods such as fatty fish, kimchi, garlic, or broccoli. Implementing them into a meal assists in lowering stress levels. Certain comfort foods also play a role in stress relief. Consider some dark chocolate for a snack, or a hearty oatmeal bowl for breakfast to reduce your stress. Ingredients in these foods boost your serotonin and benefit your mood.
Along with slightly modifying your diet, input some physical activity into your routine. Something as trivial as walking, cleaning your room, or washing the dishes, presents the advantage of increasing your body’s endorphins, a “feel-good chemical”.
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Shaw , William. “Stress Effects on the Body.” American Psychological Association, American Psychological Association, www.apa.org/topics/stress/body.
Theil, Kyle. “How To Use Matcha Powder in Everyday Foods.” Bulk Nation USA, 3 Apr. 2019, www.bulknationusa.com/how-to-use-matcha-powder-in-everyday-foods/.
Unno, Keiko, et al. “Stress-Reducing Effect of Cookies Containing Matcha Green Tea: Essential Ratio among Theanine, Arginine, Caffeine and Epigallocatechin Gallate.” Heliyon, Elsevier, 7 May 2019, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6512570/.
Woods, Jane, et al. “How to Calm an Anxious Stomach: The Brain-Gut Connection.” Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA, adaa.org/learn-from-us/from-the-experts/blog-posts/consumer/how-calm-anxious-stomach-brain-gut-connection.