Feel better in your belly! Did you know that healing the body's stress response is the first step to digestive wellness?
The reason for this lies in understanding the physiological effects of stress and the adrenal glands. The adrenals control the body's stress response. They are two small glands located on top of the kidneys. When the brain perceives a threat, or a crisis, it steps up its game and tells the adrenals to secrete stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. This is great for running away from a tiger, or for clambering back up a cliff side if you've, unfortunately, rolled off of it. These stress hormones make our muscles strong, our eyesight acute and our minds quick thinking--all the skills we need to save ourselves during a crisis.
In an emergency situation like this, do you think your body wastes time doing lovely, healing things like properly digesting food and assimilating nutrients from it? You guessed it--nope! When you are under stress, survival is prioritized and digestion is deprioritized.
The problem is that stress levels are way up for modern humans. Many of us are running away from that tiger or scrambling up that cliff, 24/7. Busy schedules, lack of sleep, poor diet, juggling a heavy work load, along with the demands of family life; these all contribute to a major stress load on the body. As well, these stressors are often compounded by psychological issues stemming from trauma, abuse or grief. Needless to say, this stress load is far greater than anything our hunter/gatherer ancestors typically had to bear.
Our DNA is 99.99% identical to these ancestors' and, like them, we are designed to handle short bursts of stress but not chronic levels of it. When the brain is overloaded by stress, it becomes desensitized and "forgets" how to turn off the stress response. Cortisol courses from the adrenals like a faucet that has been left on. When this situation persists for months or years, it can be an underlying root cause in many health maladies, like heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's, asthma, Crohn's disease and irritable bowel syndrome.
How exactly does chronic stress impair the digestive system? When cortisol levels are out of balance, due to chronic stress, the immune system is compromised, making you more susceptible to gastrointestinal inflammation and infection. This can lead to gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, digestive pain and discomfort--plus IBS, ulcerative colitis, acid reflux, Crohn's disease and celiac disease.
75% of our immune system is centered in the gut. Powerful immune cells called "secretory IgA," or SIgA, lie in the mucosal lining of the intestinal tract. This is your body's first line of defense against infection. When the stress hormone, cortisol, goes out of whack, SIgA becomes deficient and can't properly fight off infectious pathogens when they enter the body. Dysregulated cortisol also causes inflammation in the gut.
Lack of SIgA, plus increased inflammation, creates the perfect breeding ground for bacterial and parasitic infection, as well as for yeast overgrowth (candida). While rarely diagnosed by conventional doctors, these kinds of infections can cause terrible digestive discomfort and gastrointestinal disease.
The digestive tract acts as the foundation for good health. It is the place where nutrients are absorbed into your body. These nutrients are the "building blocks" for all the other systems in the body--the heart, the brain, the reproductive system, the bones, etc. By healing the gut you truly optimize whole body wellness.
The first step to healing the gut is improving the immune system, and lowering inflammation, by raising SIgA levels. Enhancing SIgA levels happens when you heal your adrenals and become more resilient to stress. The process starts with a simple saliva test to look for adrenal dysfunction, or "adrenal fatigue." This is followed by a holistic, take-home gastrointestinal lab test, to look for infection. From there, a simple wellness program--whole food nutrition, a lab-based supplement program and stress reduction techniques--optimize your digestive health. You can feel better in your belly! Make an appointment with me today, and start your path to true wellness, with Body Wisdom Health.