April was Stress Awareness Month, but as a dietitian, I think that we should be aware of stress every month.
If left unchecked, stress can be deadly.
In fact, stress is often referred to as the silent killer because although its effects are not immediately apparent, it can lead to several serious health problems such as high blood pressure and heart disease.
The biochemical changes that occur during times of stress have significant and immediate impact on gut function.
Stress “kills” the good bacteria that is essential for keeping your immune system strong, helping you digest food and absorb the nutrients, regulate your hormones, and prevent inflammation.
Inflammation is the precursor to all diseases.
All of us have experienced stress at some point in our lives, which means out guts have been compromised. And an unhealthy gut only exacerbates your stress.
I have four tips that can help you restore your gut flora and help you reduce stress.
1. Avoid artificial sweeteners and added sugars. Several studies have shown that artificial sweeteners (such as those in diet soda or those little pink or blue packets you pour into your coffee) can literally destroy your good bacteria.
Added sugar literally feeds the bad bacteria lurking in your gut. Not to mention more and more studies are linking added sugar to heart disease. Food brands will be required to list the added sugars in their products by July 2018.
I suggest honey or stevia as good alternative sweeteners.
In terms of honey, I especially love using Weddersppon Raw Manuka Honey. Manuka honey has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties — basically the opposite of artificial sweeteners. This honey can strengthen your immune system and improve your gut flora.
Stevia is an awesome sugar alternative. It is not an artificial sweetener and it has no added sugar. Stevia comes from a plant and a little bit goes along way as it is 30 times sweeter than sugar. For example, a typical soda contains 9 teaspoons of sugar. To achieve the same sweetness with stevia, you would only need one teaspoon and wouldn’t have the harmful effects that added sugar causes. I turn to Sweetleaf Stevia.
2. Take probiotics. Probiotics are live, good bacteria. Taking probiotic supplements actually replenish good bacteria in your gut. My favorite probiotic is Just Thrive. Many of the probiotics on the market not survive in your intestinal system so they aren’t all that helpful. With Thrive, 100 percent of the healthy flora, in their capsules, survives and hence, you thrive quite literally.
3. Fill up on fiber. Most people do not get nearly enough fiber in their diet. A healthy gut depends on fiber to move food along. Be sure your diet has plenty of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. Make sure your snacks are fiber-ful too. Grab a piece of fruit or a 100-calorie pack of Setton Farms pistachios, which are not only loaded with fiber, but also have been proven to reduce stress. A recent Penn State study showed that the healthy fat and fiber combo in pistachios can reduce vascular stress, keeping your blood vessels open and relaxed during stressful moments.
Your gut is often referred to as your “second brain.” So keep your gut in check and you’ll, keep your stress in check!
Kelly Springer is the founder of Kelly’s Choice nutritional company. For more nutrition tips, visit www.kellyschoice.org and find Kelly’s Choice dietitians’ advice throughout social media. Click here for Kelly’s blog. Click here for Facebook. Click here for Instagram. Click here for Twitter, Click here for Linkedin.
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