Everybody believes that stress is bad for you, but experts are still figuring out why. We already know that too much exposure to stress hormones such as cortisol is hard on our bodies, and our waistlines, and now comes news of another way that stress affects physiology. Research to be published in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity reveals that stress leads to changes in the types and numbers of microorganisms living in our guts.
Now, that might not seem like a big deal, but it is—there's a growing body of evidence that the bacteria in our gut can do everything from cause cancer to affect our weight to boost or lower our immunity. And this research found that when people were exposed to stress the bacteria in their bellies became less diverse (not a good thing) and greater numbers of harmful bacteria (such as Clostridium) were present.
As I've written previously, taking probiotics can help increase the number of beneficial bacteria in your belly.
Thanks for nothing, you may well be thinking, because even though you know to avoid stress it can seem impossible to control our reactions to stressful events. So I'm going to share one of the best resources I've ever found for science-based, easily doable stress reduction techniques: the Institute of HeartMath. If you take a free Stress and Wellbeing Survey on their website they'll assess what types of stress you're under and how it's affecting you, and offer you stress reduction techniques tailored to your issues (most of the basic info is free, though they do sell stress-reduction products and educational materials).
For example, when I took the survey the results told me that I'm pretty resilient to stress, but that my "emotional vitality" is low, and it recommended a stress-reducing move called the Quick Coherence Technique, a one-minute trick that helps quash draining emotions such as frustration, irritation and anxiety. I find it helpful, and bet you will too.
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