Stressed over studies? Can’t sleep at night? Keep reading the same page, yet nothing sinks in? It sounds like a bad case of student stress. And student stress leads to physical problems, such as irritable bowel syndrome.
I never had anxiety during my undergrad or grad studies coursework. But I stressed-out once I started working full-time during grad school. And when anxiety struck, my bowels worked overtime.
Not only do studies and work trigger anxiety, so does poor diet. The winner for anxiety-inducing foods? Cola. Diet cola churned my stomach in ways that kept me awake, terrorized, at bedtime. Yet, I couldn’t stop guzzling the dark brew. A math professor warned me that unhealthy eating triggers panic attacks. He said, once the attacks begin, you’ll need a bazooka to regain control.
But I didn’t have a bazooka. Instead, I had twenty vitamin bottles lining my work desk. Gaba. Vitamin B-100. Prescription tryptophan. Nothing worked. The boss’s wife, a biologist, scoffed, “No more pills. Eat your nutrients from healthy, homecooked food.” So, much for my daily bouts of fats, sugars, and salts from Earl’s and Edo.
But eventually, through self-talk, fitness—and a healthy diet—I regained control of anxiety. Now, I no longer drink cola, no longer eat McDonald’s, no longer sip Starbucks. Instead, I diet like a health nut protégé, eating eleven-veggies-and-fruits-a-day.
And every day, I eat cilantro and probiotic-rich sauerkraut. Cilantro works better than valium for anxiety (so I read). And probiotics temper the nerves. Get your probiotics from sauerkraut, yogurt, kefir, kimchi, or kombucha—the unpasteurized kinds. And don’t kill your probiotics by cooking them.
Benjamin I. Brown, MD helps you stop irritable bowel syndrome, whether anxiety-riddled or not, in his book The Digestive Health Solution: Your Personalized Five-Step Plan to Inside-Out Digestive Wellness.
- Our bodies and mental health rely on our microbiome. “The ‘microbiome’ … refers to the ecosystem of bacteria that lives in our digestive system, and only a decade ago we had no idea of its complexity and importance to our health” (p. 1).
- Microbiomes can be broken down into bad bugs and good bugs: “Diets high in calories, refined sugars, fat and protein (typically from processed foods, sweets and high-fat animal products) increase levels of bad bacteria in the gut, while diets rich in complex carbohydrates (from wholegrains, fruits, and vegetables) not only lower levels of bad bugs but increase your levels of healthy bifidobacterial, too” (p. 177).
- What all causes bad bugs? “Modern diets, too much sugar, excess alcohol, environmental toxins, lack of sleep, and too little exercise …” (p. 3).
- So, how do you know if you’re riddled with bad bugs? Symptoms include “bloating, distension, pain, constipation and/or diarrhea, discomfort and other niggling symptoms” (p. 2).
- What’s the big deal with bad bugs anyway? Too many bad bugs cause anxiety and disease: “Disturbances in our gut bacteria have been linked to anxiety, depression, dementia, heart disease, allergies, autoimmune disease and weight gain, among many other illnesses” (p. 2).
- So how do you get good bugs? “You will need to start using probiotics, prebiotics, and/or foods that improve your gut bacteria” (p. 160).
- And good bugs thrive on certain herbs, such as “peppermint … chamomile … licorice … angelica … caraway … milk thistle … lemon balm … cinnamon … mint” (p. 167).
- And relaxation techniques (such as yoga) swat away bad bugs: “incorporate[e] … mind-body therapies for stress management …” (p. 160).
Muscle heads get gaseous from protein shakes. Lactose intolerant souls blush when asked, “Who cut the cheese?” And stressed bus commuters worry about the nearest washroom.
So, if you’ve got the rumbles—or, worse, student stress—snack on good bacteria.