Body/Brain: Gut microbiome discombobulates under chronic stress.

Updated: Jan 4, 2019



Everyone these days have heard about the gut bacteria but scientists know a lot more now just how much these other organisms play a part in the workings of out body. How do we unlock the power of our microbiome?(1) In fact they can be found not just in our guts but also in a brain (2):


And actually, although primarily in our GI tract, they can be found all over our whole body. So much so they are being considered as an organ in their own right called the microbiome. They are essentially non-human micro organisms that without them we wouldn't able to survive.


We have 100 trillion of the them (2).


Scientists are realising that that they play a central role in the workings of our body, health and wellbeing (2). However our lifestyles affect the quality of them. What ever we eat and drink, the substances we consume including medication, toxins in the environment, the type of workplace stress we endure, how we manage stress, how much and the type of exercise we do, how much time we spend with nature, how too clean our home environment is, whether we have pets. All of these and more have an impact on our microbiome.

Chronic stress in particular has a negative impact on our microbiome. Psychology today reports that our microbiome gets confused and upset when undergoing chronic stress. Not surprising.

When we're enduring chronic stress our body more readily and involuntarily goes into fight flight mode; a feature of our autonomic nervous system. Fight flight helps us to be super alert focused and even stronger for short periods so that we can run away from danger or fight it off. All very necessary if you live off the land and a bear comes along. Or if you lead a lifestyle which inadvertently or situationally interfaces with danger.

In western society the main dangers of modern life is unresolved trauma, workplace stress and poor life balance.

Workplace stress is becoming one of the biggest stressors particularly for professionals and occupations expecting more for less. We're competing with the notion that computers, and in the future robots, can do it faster. Speak with people about time and they'll often say 'hasn't this year gone so quickly' and people respond to a 'how are you doing?' with 'busy'. Busyness is taking over.

When you combine busyness with unresolved trauma you have a recipe for disaster. You have 2 stressors in the mix. One is the foreground stress of the workplace and the other is the background stress from trauma through which we view life and work. This is compounded further by unhealthy lifestyle behaviours which are associated with chronic stress. People are more likely to have a poor diet, more likely to consume alcohol and substances all which negatively impacts on the gut microbiome making them discombobulate.

People who have unresolved trauma see things differently. They see life through the filtered narrow lense of fear associated emotions linked to the trauma in a way that is unique to that person. This serves a purpose. It is useful because it means that if the trauma happens again we are more cautious ready to respond and mobilise quicker. However it also makes us less relaxed and more on guard. This is not necessarily a voluntary process as it involves the autonomic nervous system going into fight or flight. In this state our immune and digestive systems are suppressed and our heart rate is up. When we endure these for too long they cause health relates concerns.

When your heart is beating too fast, it may not pump blood effectively to the rest of your body. This can deprive your organs and tissues of oxygen and can cause the following tachycardia-related signs and symptoms: Shortness of breath. Lightheadedness and if left untreated can cause heart failure and stroke (4). Indeed it is also known that chronic stress leads to metabolic changes relating to cholesterol levels, obesity and increasing risk of coronary heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.(5)

What is the relevance to our Microbiome? If we look after them they look after us. We must ensure we have an operating level of relaxed focus in any endeavour, to ensure our internal environment is in state of homeostasis of our autonomic nervous system. Our Microbiome respond better to this kind of environment. If we consume a diet that our Microbiome responds well too in a way that develops a diverse range of microbiome they will be able to help us better. If we ensure that we meet our human needs in balance in a way that supports us to flourish they will flourish too. They are our friends and we need to treat them that way if we want them to help us and our health at times of pressure and challenge.

How do we unlock the power of our microbiome?

Let go of unresolved emotions

Ensure homeostasis of your autonomic nervous system to get into your flow

Takes steps to meet your human needs in balance in order to flourish in life

Next year I'm going to celebrate world microbiome day 27th June 2019 (1)


(1) https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/06/well/live/unlocking-the-secrets-of-the-microbiome.html

(2) https://www.amnh.org/explore/science-topics/science-topic-health-microbiome/meet-your-microbiome

(3) http://worldmicrobiomeday.com/human-microbiome/

(4) https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/tachycardia/symptoms-causes/syc-20355127

(5) Presence of psychosocial stressors is associated with increased risk of acute myocardial infarction, suggesting that approaches aimed at modifying these factors should be developed. Rosengren, A., Hawken, S., Ounpuu, S., Sliwa, K., Zubaid, M., Almaheed, W.A., Blackett, K.N., Sitthiamorn, C., Sato, H., & Yusuf, S. (2004) Association of psychosocial risk factors with risk of acute myocardial infarction in 11119 cases and 13648 controls from 52 countries (2004)


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