Your gut is home to trillions of microbes that all work in harmony with your body’s cells to keep you thriving. A study published in the Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology shows that consistent stress negatively affects the diversity of beneficial bacteria in your microbiome.

When the beneficial bacteria within your microbiome are weakened or damaged due to stress, the integrity of your gut lining can become compromised. This makes you more susceptible to exhaustion, nutritional deficiencies, inflammatory conditions, depression, or anxiety.

When your microbiome is thriving with a diverse set of healthy bacteria, it helps you to optimize your body’s response to stress. This is especially important because your gut bacteria produce serotonin, an important mood-regulating neurotransmitter that communicates with the brain and is key to coping with mental turmoil. Other healthy bacteria work to help lower cortisol, the notorious stress hormone.

Fortunately for us, stress is manageable and the microbiome is malleable — meaning that if we take action to improve our microbial health while we work to reduce our stress levels, we might be able to find the answers to living, looking, and feeling our best.

Here are six quick tips to get a state of optimal mental and gut health:

Finesse your diet for the best results by aiming for a diet high in whole and plant-based foods with an emphasis on prebiotic fibre. It’s especially important that you make a switch because your microbiome changes relatively quickly based on the foods you eat.

An effective probiotic, taken consistently, can replenish the population of good bacteria. Ask your doctor which probiotic is right for you.

Not only is exercise one of the best ways to decompress from a stressful day, but it can also change the composition of your microbiome. In a study from the University of Illinois, researchers found that exercising for just six weeks could have an impact on the microbiome

Not only does quality sleep help reduce stress and keep you feeling your best, but a recent study from the Department of Neuroscience at Uppsala University (Sweden), has found that short-term sleep loss may induce subtle changes in the human gut microbiota.

Antibiotics in our food and as medicine are detrimental to our colonies of beneficial bacteria as they wipe out good bacteria along with the bad. Check with your doctor to make sure antibiotics are absolutely necessary before taking them.

Make time for YOU, explore meditation, mindfulness, or yoga instead. Establishing balance in your life will support your mental and emotional health, helping you to optimize your gut and overall health.