The Surprising Way To Manage Your Stress During A Global Pandemic
These are challenging times.
In the face of this global pandemic, I spend my days riding a wave of emotions, just as many of my patients do, and, I am sure, many of you do as well. From the desire to help and change something to a feeling of helplessness and sense that we have no control, it is only natural that anxiety and fear will take root and leave us feeling frazzled and worried.
There are many causes and reasons for anxiety, some of them physiological in nature and some more situational, like our current reality with COVID-19. While you may have already started to implement some self-care practices to help reduce your stress during this time—like limiting your news consumption, focusing on getting more sleep, or prioritizing a nutritious diet—there's one healthy practice you may not have considered. In my experience as an integrative medicine doctor, one way to help manage anxious thoughts is by nourishing your gut in a strategic way.
That's because our digestive systems support a number of processes in the body—including how we make and manufacture the majority of our neurotransmitters. Some of these neurotransmitters—chemical messengers in the brain—are responsible for mood regulation, such as serotonin and dopamine. Many of these digestive processes are affected by probiotics, or the good bacteria that live in our gut.
Supporting a healthy gut begins with eating an anti-inflammatory diet, with low levels of gluten and dairy. I also recommend a probiotic supplement with specific targeted strains to support your gut, in addition to increasing good fats, like olive oil, coconut oil, or ghee.* Finally, fermented foods like kombucha and kefir naturally contain probiotic bacteria.
When anxiety persists, though, and interferes with your quality of life, medications or other interventions may be the next step with the support and advice from your doctor.
As we all continue to ride the ups and downs of dealing with the pandemic, keep these strategies in mind. I know that we will all ultimately be OK—but right now we need the strength, endurance, and self-compassion to get through this unprecedented and historic journey that is truly testing all of us.
Dr. Taz Bhatia is a board-certified physician, specializing in integrative and emergency medicine, pediatrics and prevention, with expertise in women’s health, weight-loss, hormone balance and nutrition. She attended Emory University, the University of Georgia and the Medical College of Georgia, and was a recipient of the Emily Gardner Award for Best Pediatric Resident in 2000. She is the author of the Superwoman RX and The 21-Day Belly Fix. Personal health challenges in her twenties combined with a broken health care system motivated Bhatia to pursue an alternative definition of health and healthy living. As a young resident, she was sick and without answers, and began searching for help to heal her health issues. Studying various systems of medicine including Chinese Medicine, Acupuncture and Ayurveda, she found a wealth of information not yet taught in conventional medical schools. It led her to opening her now nationally-recognized practice, CentreSpring MD (formerly Atlanta Center for Holistic and Integrative Medicine). Today, Bhatia and her team work relentlessly to find a patient’s core health problems, their centre, in order to spring them forth in health, pulling from multiple systems of medicine, including integrative, functional, Chinese and holistic medicine.