That queasy feeling in your gut when you’re nervous and stressed about something might be more than just a one-off.
Stress is not always a bad thing; in fact, it’s one of our key survival instincts. Stress sets off a series of metabolic adaptations that lets us tap into the “fight or flight” response that has historically kept us alive in potentially dangerous situations. But while this immediate response can be lifesaving, extended or chronic stress can go on to make huge metabolic alterations and affect your gut for the worse.
Unfortunately, in today’s frantic, fast-paced lifestyle, many of us have become so accustomed to stress that it doesn’t even register that it’s not how your body is supposed to feel 24/7. This high level of chronic stress can have negative effects on various systems in your body including your gut health. But the good news here is that there are ways that you can mitigate that response and give your body better stress support.
Here’s what you need to know about stress and your adrenal glands, the impact it can have on your gut, and what you can do to manage both your stress and gut health in a safe and healthy way.
How your stress and gut microbiome are related
The connection between your stress and gut health comes primarily down to your hormones.
When you’re confronted with a stressful situation, your body releases a surge of hormones from your adrenal glands that are intended to give you quick, accessible energy in case you need to react (ie: make a quick getaway or fight off an attacker). One of these hormones is cortisol, which is sometimes aptly referred to as the “stress hormone.”
Unfortunately, while this abrupt increase in cortisol levels is a normal and instinctive reaction to stressful situations, it can sometimes go haywire and cause more harm than good when you’re chronically stressed.
For example, the excess of stress hormones can actually change your gut motility, or the rate at which your gastrointestinal system digests and moves food throughout your stomach and intestines. This may lead to the “nervous stomach” feeling you might deal with if you’re under immediate stress, and/or other symptoms of gastrointestinal distress like changes in bowel movements or stomach pain.
What’s worse, this stress response is also thought to have a negative impact on your gut microbiome, or the colonies of bacteria, viruses, and other microbes in your intestine that play roles in your metabolism and general health. Some studies have found that stress hormones can increase your gut barrier permeability, which may allow harmful bacteria to slip into your bloodstream from your gut (this is sometimes fittingly referred to as “leaky gut syndrome”). This also means that stress is implicated as a contributing factor to serious gut issues like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
To sum this all up: your levels of stress and gut health are intricately connected. Further, you may need stress support if you find that you’re constantly dealing with high levels of pressure from life’s daily demands and are concerned about your gut health.
Natural herbs for stress
Luckily, there are several ways that you can mitigate this excessive stress response, including taking certain herbs to relieve stress and anxiety. Also known as adaptogens, these medicinal herbs can help your body manage stress, gut health, and energy levels.
While the use of these herbs is rooted in centuries of traditional medicinal practices like Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), more and more research is showing that they may have very real and promising effects on your adrenal health and hormones (and therefore, your health as a whole). One of the most promising effects that many adaptogens have is that they may help reduce your circulating cortisol levels and help keep your general stress response under control!
Some of the best herbs for stress relief include:
Ashwagandha - One of the most well-documented and best adaptogens for stress, ashwagandha is an Ayurvedic herb that has been used for centuries to help manage the stress response. Research has found that ashwagandha supplementation may lead to reductions in reported stress and better sleep quality in human subjects.
Rhodiola - Another popular natural herb in many adrenal stress supplements, Rhodiola rosea is an adaptogen with potential anti-stress, anti-inflammatory, and anti-aging
Holy Basil - Also known as tulsi, Holy Basil is another important Ayurvedic herb with hormone-balancing properties. Studies have found that this leafy herb may be useful in managing stress and even for countering metabolic stress from life’s many pressures.
Schisandra - The Schisandra fruit is perhaps best known for its potential uses for supporting your liver health since it is an extremely powerful antioxidant. In addition, this fruit is also an amazing adaptogen, and many animal studies have shown that it may be helpful for countering and overcoming chronic stress.
Eleuthero Root - The Eleuthero root, also known as Siberian ginseng, is an adaptogen that is often used for increasing endurance and improving memory.
Cordyceps - Cordyceps is a rare medicinal mushroom that has been widely used in TCM. It’s thought to have powerful nutraceutical and therapeutic potential for a variety of conditions.
If you’re looking for an adrenal stress supplement that contains these herbs for stress relief, consider AdrenalStability™. This adaptogen-rich supplement, which contains stress relief herbs like Ashwagandha, Rhodiola, Holy Basil, and Schisandra, is a natural option for when you’re dealing with adrenal fatigue, chronic stress, and low energy levels from the many stresses that you may face during the day.*
Your gut health and your stress response are more closely related than you might think. In many cases, managing an unhealthy gut may start by taking a look at your current stress levels and figuring out ways to manage that stress response in a healthy way. Luckily, you can find many herbs that reduce stress like Ashwagandha, Rhodiola, and Cordyceps to support your adrenal health and boost your gut health in the process.