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Did your mother ever tell you that all your worrying and stress would make you old before your time? Well, new research has proved her right.
Excessive worry has been shown to shorten the telomeres on the chromosomes that are linked to aging. De-stressing through meditation and a healthy lifestyle has been shown to reverse this trend. (1)
New findings are pointing to the impact of stress and worry on the microbes in the gut that are causing the brain to age faster. The intestinal microbiology outnumbers our human cells by 10 to 1, and there is more than 100 times more microbial DNA in the body than human DNA.
The gut-brain axis is the communication channel between the brain and gut that is only just beginning to be understood, and many of the pathways the gut and brain use to communicate are simply unknown at this point in scientific research.
The make-up of the intestinal flora can affect the brain development of young animals and trigger stressful behavior, worry and mood concerns. Early life stressors have been linked to an alteration of the intestinal flora that, in turn, weakens immunity, causes intestinal distress, an increase in stress hormones and worry. (2)
In one study, when the intestinal tract was exposed to stress, damaging hormones such as cortisol increased, and the lining of the intestines became permeable or “leaky” – allowing in undesirable bugs and toxins.
The stress was shown to decrease healthy levels of Lactobacillus. When the subjects were supplemented with a probiotic containing Lactobacillus, cortisol levels decreased and the intestinal skin normalized. (3)
In another study, stress-signaling molecules (such as cytokines, which are linked to worry and sadness) were reduced when the probiotic Bifidobacterium was supplemented. Bifidobacteria probiotic supplementation also increased tryptophan levels, which is a precursor for the mood-balancing neurotransmitter, serotonin, which happens to be made by microbes in the gut. (4)
I have written extensively about probiotic supplementation and rebuilding healthy gut microbes as a strategic component of our gut and brain health, but the studies show that emotional stress and a stressful lifestyle can also play a powerfully damaging role as well. (1)
10 Very Doable Stress Management Strategies
- Take time to relax and enjoy your meals. Rest for a few minutes on your left side after the meal.
- Eat no more than 3 meals a day. Try to make lunch bigger, or dinner lighter and earlier.
- Exercise daily. Even 10 minutes of yoga or a walk will help. See my 12-Minute Workout or The Sun Salutation.
- Meditate everyday if possible. Learn the One Minute Meditation for free, or take our full meditation eCourse.
- Perform random acts of kindness. Make an effort to express love, kindness and gratitude every day.
- Go to bed early, before 10PM, and get no more or less than 7-8 hours each night.
- While in the shower, take time to give yourself an Ayurvedic oil massage with the intention to slow down.
- Divide your ideal body weight in pounds by two. This gives the number of ounces of pure water you should drink each day to stay hydrated. For example, if your ideal weight is 120 pounds, you should aim to drink 60 ounces (about 2 quarts) of pure water daily.
- Feed your good microbes with 1 teaspoon of raw organic coconut oil each day. Cook with small amounts of ghee and add high quality olive oil to your meals.
- Find at least a half hour each day to engage in unstructured play time. Playing means doing something you love, that has no goal or reward.