Smart Group - Electric Xmas
Emirates Old Trafford
The Meetings Show

The link between gut health, stress and focus


Let’s make April your stress-busting month. It is the Stress Awareness Month after all, and as such an opportunity for workplaces to address the impact of stress on productivity, morale, and overall health. Responsible companies must consider key actions on how to retain a sustainable workforce. A great employer will encourage healthy lifestyle choices for their staff by promoting regular exercise, healthy eating habits, and adequate sleep. Offering wellness programs that promote physical activity and healthy behaviours would be a great added benefit. Amy Cottrell, Registered Nutritionist mBANT, rCNHC and Mesi Balog, Workplace Wellness Consultant & Founder of Treat Your Staff talked to PA Life about the link between gut health, stress and focus…

Understanding the gut-brain axis

In the busyness of modern life, it can be easy to overlook the potential impact that stress can have on our gut health, our ability to focus and our overall feelings of wellbeing.

The gut-brain axis is a bidirectional communication network linking the central nervous system with the enteric nervous system of the gastrointestinal tract. This connection allows for constant communication between the brain and the gut, influencing various physiological functions, including digestion, immunity and even our mood regulation.

Gut health and stress

Stress, whether it’s from work, relationships, or other sources, can significantly impact our gut health. When we are stressed, the body releases hormones like cortisol and adrenaline which can disrupt the balance of the bacteria in the gut, also known as our gut microbiome. These imbalances, or so-called “gut dysbiosis” can cause gastrointestinal issues such as bloating, cramps, or diarrhoea, which can further exacerbate stress levels.

Gut health and focus

The health of our gut can also influence our ability to concentrate and maintain focus. Research suggests that the gut microbiome plays a crucial role in producing neurotransmitters. These are essentially ‘chemical messengers’, like serotonin and dopamine, both of which are essential for mood regulation and cognitive function.

When the gut microbiome is imbalanced – not just from stress, but from other factors such as poor diet, or antibiotic usage – it can impact negatively on neurotransmitter production. This in turn leads to symptoms such as anxiety, depression and difficulty focussing. Additionally, inflammation resulting from gut issues might also impair cognitive function and contribute to symptoms such as brain fog.

How to support your gut health

There are a few steps we can take to support our gut health, and in turn enhance our ability to manage stress and improve focus:

  • Eat a balanced diet: Include a diverse range of whole foods rich in fibre, prebiotics, and probiotics – all of which can promote a healthy gut microbiome. Incorporate foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fermented foods like yoghurt and kimchi.
  • Manage stress: Incorporate stress-reduction techniques such as mindfulness, meditation, deep breathing exercises, or yoga into your daily routine to help mitigate the impact of stress on gut health.
  • Prioritise sleep: Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night. Inadequate or low quality sleep has been seen to disrupt the gut microbiome composition and might exacerbate stress and focus issues.
  • Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water throughout the day to support digestion, maintain optimal gut function and also to ensure that we support our energy levels and therefore focus.

By prioritising our gut health through mindful lifestyle choices and dietary habits, we can cultivate resilience against stress, enhance our ability to focus and ultimately promote overall wellbeing.

You can find more helpful health advice from Amy Cottrell Nutrition and workplace wellbeing support, as well as event wellness offerings by TreatYourStaff


Amy and Mesi’s tips for a healthy and mindful Christmas can be adapted to any season.