Lockdowns can be a very stressful time, especially as they continue for a prolonged period. With heightened stress levels and an impact to your mental health, it can also affect your gut. Increasing evidence has shown that the communication between your gut microbiota and the central nervous system known as the gut/brain axis is a two way relationship which needs to be nurtured on both ends. Dysbiosis of the gut has been linked to anxiety and depression.
The difficulty lies with balancing work and home life which had traditionally been separated has now been merged together through consistent work from home measures. Caffeine, alcohol, take away and junk food snacking has been on the rise as stress levels are increased during lockdown. As a result, these food and lifestyle choices are doing more damage to your gut microbes and overall health which also affect your mood and concentration.
Caffeine and Stress
Having that morning coffee to ‘wake up’ has become a norm. Over consumption can cause a jittery feeling, anxiousness and sleep difficulty for some. Instead of the daily coffee pick-me-up, why not grab an apple? The natural glucose in apples convert into energy in your cells which can keep you energised throughout the day.
Junk Food and Gut Health
Your gut microbes change in response to what you eat. Your bacteria in your gut are involved in pathways producing serotonin and dopamine. These are the brain chemicals linked to your mood, motivation and feelings of reward. The microbiota can also influence the stress response of your body, so your gut is communicating with your brain continuously. The more junk/processed food in your house, the more temptations you will have to grab a quick snack or sugar fix during lockdown. Purchasing healthier snacks like nuts and fruit or making easy and healthy snacks like my Cacao Bliss Balls are great alternatives to processed food like chips, chocolate and biscuits.
Alcohol Consumption and Lockdowns
Excessive consumption of alcohol is known to affect your liver health and can also have a negative influence on your gut microbes. To make one small but meaningful change is to substitute an alcoholic beverage where possible with a relaxing and calming tea. Teas like chamomile, passionflower, lavender and lemon balm all have calming benefits for your gut and are great for stress relief too.
Stress Relief Techniques
Keeping your gut healthy is very important for your mental health, but equally keeping your mind healthy is just as important. During lockdown, I have tried to distract myself with a good comedy movie or going for a walk with a friend to get some social interaction, fresh air and sunshine. Personally, whenever I’m stressed out, I make it a point to do some deep breathing exercises or listening to my favourite music. Some other suggestions during lockdown could be joining an online yoga, pilates or dance class or even listening to your favourite podcast. It’s a tough time at the moment, but even making the smallest of changes to your eating and lifestyle habits can have a beneficial influence to your health and mental wellbeing.
Wishing you all the very best of health,
Gut Nutrition and Wellness 💖