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Feeling stressed? Why this meditation teacher suggests listening to your gut

Posted by Nic Florido on 23rd Jun 2021

My name is Luke McLeod and I’m the founder of Soul Alive, an online meditation platform here in Australia. Meditation has been instrumental in my life and through teaching it now for over ten years, I’ve been fortunate enough to see its incredible ability to change other lives too. That’s why I’ve partnered with Nexba to have a chat about stress and how to manage it. While it’s common to think that stress is just about what’s happening in your mind, your gut plays an important part too.

Have you ever noticed that when you’re feeling anxious or stressed, it seems to affect your stomach? No, you’re not imagining things! Often when we’re stressed, we feel it in our guts in the forms of knots in our stomachs, cramps and indigestion. Science has found there is a real connection between your stress levels and your gut health.

But, before we go any further, it’s important to first have a solid understanding of what we mean when talking about stress and gut health.

What is stress?

Generally speaking, the word ‘stress’ means there’s pressure or strain at hand. When we’re talking about mental health, stress symptoms can include feelings of being overwhelmed, anxious and/or unable to cope with whatever’s going on in your life.

It goes without saying but life isn’t always smooth sailing – so it’s important to set yourself up with coping mechanisms. There might be times when you find yourself under more pressure than usual – such as before a big deadline, trying to make big life decisions and during life’s random challenges – that you can feel yourself becoming stressed. Besides making you really uncomfortable mentally and emotionally, studies have shown that the side effects of stress can also physically manifest in your body.

There are two main types of stress: acute and chronic. Acute stress happens after an adverse life event (like a sudden death in the family) and comes on quickly, whereas chronic stress occurs when you’re in a constant state of stress over a prolonged period (like experiencing long periods of burnout at work).

If you think you might be struggling with acute or chronic stress, I recommend checking in with your GP and possibly getting a referral for a mental health professional. It’s also important to speak with your GP if you notice any signs of burnout in yourself, which can look like constant feelings of failure, self-doubt, loss of motivation, negativity and/or feeling alone.

What is gut health?

When talking about gut health, you’re probably just thinking about your stomach. But gut health extends beyond just the tummy and is related to everything happening inside you, including all the organs within the digestive system as a whole. Research has shown that the gut microbiome plays a huge role in your overall health and the presence of good gut bacteria helps to keep your whole body running smoothly. Those with better gut health are less likely to develop chronic diseases like colorectal cancer or metabolic disease.

It’s true when they say ‘you are what you eat’, so it’s important to look at your diet when talking about gut health and mental health as well. Fill your plate with loads of colourful fruits and veggies, sugar free wholefoods and fermented foods like Nexba Kombucha for whole-body nourishment!

How is stress connected to gut health?

Your mental state and your gut health are intrinsically linked, and the two are connected in more ways than one. Growing evidence suggests that stress can have adverse effects on the gut and has been linked to conditions including inflammation or more serious diseases. If you’d like to improve the health of your gut, you’ll find focusing on your mental health will help… and vice versa.

How to manage your stress for better gut health using meditation

Regular meditation has been scientifically proven to help alleviate stress. It’s a great stress-management tool that can basically reprogram your brain to manage stress if practiced daily. But did you know that you can also practice meditation for better gut health as well?

 

What is a gut health meditation?

Meditation is the exercise of bringing yourself to connect to the present moment. You can do this in numerous ways from repeating a mantra, to concentrating on your breath or doing a process called ‘body scanning’ where you focus on different sensations within the body.

A gut health meditation works by taking five minutes to scan your body and notice if you feel any discomfort. Some of the common feelings people notice are nauseousness, cramps and/or tightness.

Noticing this at first can be uncomfortable but if you can just witness it for a period of time, you can then try to change those feelings of discomfort. Take a few deep, slow breaths into the belly and release the tension there as you exhale. Close your eyes and picture your digestion working perfectly, processing your food well and leaving you feeling light and healthy. Putting on some relaxing music for stress release whilst doing this can also help too.

The more research that comes out on the importance of gut health and how it is linked to stress relief, the better. Give the above a go and send me a message at @luke.mcleod if you notice any difference.

Luke McLeod

Luke McLeod, founder of Soul Alive, Australian online meditation platform