Don’t stress…and why.
Don’t stress…and why.
We are living in stressful times, besides dealing with the constant changes with the pandemic, dealing with work and keeping our families safe, it is hard to stay calm all the time. Even if we gage our mental sanity through these occurrences, our bodies experience it too.
During stressful situations, the body releases a series of responses through the sympathetic nervous system, designed to deal with stressful situations- responses like increased breathing, rapid heartbeat, muscle contraction and other “fight or flight” responses. These are enough to slow down or stop normal body functions like detoxing, excretion, or even digestion. This is in order to divert all its internal energy on facing the perceived threat. The parasympathetic nervous system calms the body down after the perceived danger has passed.
When the stress is short-lived, the stress response will be short lived too and the normal functions will resume with only temporary disruption. When stress becomes the constant state of being and the stress-response is continuous, it becomes damaging on the body, leading to disharmony of its function, like causing gastrointestinal disorders. This sends high alerts through the vagus nerve (also referred to as the gut-brain axis) to the sensory nervous system which signals the adrenals to release cortisol and adrenaline. Cortisol, known as the stress hormone, suppresses stomach mucous production and compromises the normal function of the gut- including the proper absorption of nutrients.
Stress also disrupts the microbiome of the gut, since the brain sends signals back to the gut through the gut-brain axis. This results in stomach upsets, bowel movement irregularities and other disturbances to the microbiome.
Microbiome are the living organisms that live in the large intestine, responsible for the breaking down of food, the conversion and absorption of certain nutrients and play a key role in immune support and the conversion of important neurotransmitters or mood hormones, serotonin and dopamine. These disturbances of the microbiome can also affect how quickly food travels through the body, which can cause either diarrhoea or constipation. The intestines have a tight barrier to protect the body from the food bacteria living in the large intestine.
Stress can weaken the barrier and allow gut bacteria to enter the body. When the microbiota are disturbed, imbalanced, and affected over time, it can result in greater compromise of overall immune response, it can affect ones mood, how one feels and makes decisions, one’s energy levels and major inflammatory responses in the body.
Chronic inflammation has shown to cause diseases of the body, including autoimmune diseases, mental health problems and cancer, if not treated.
Luckily, the microbiota and the body run on energy from food, making food and diet a crucial means of prevention and cure. There are many foods and lifestyle choices that will support and nurture good gut health, thus balancing the immune system and supporting all of the bodies functions.
Since we’re not always able to control our environments and the reasons that create stressful situations, we can however provide our bodies with foods that nurture our gut and support our bodies through stress, aiding in adaption.
To begin, we have to minimize or limit our intake of processed foods. These foods contain preservatives, additives and emulsifiers that not only support bad bacteria, but also induce further stress as the body isn’t able to process most of these ingredients. High fat and sugary foods are also a no-no, even when these foods are convenient and on-the-go. It feeds the bad bacteria too, which creates imbalances in the gut, causes inflammation and changes the pH of the body.
Supplement and enjoy foods that are high in fibre, are mostly plant-based and are as natural as possible, this is to feed good gut bacteria. Foods like leafy greens, whole foods like nuts, seeds, grains, vegetables and fruits. Probiotic, fermented foods will also support the gut and keep it thriving. Try adding some plain yoghurt, kefir, kombucha, sourdough bread, sauerkraut, miso and kimchi, and make sure to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and to keep flow in the body- especially if you’re experiencing constipation.
High adaptogenic foods are a super way to support the body, superfoods like Maca, dandelion (including its root), milk thistle, ashwagandha, aloe, cinnamon, turmeric, holy basil and mushrooms like Reishi, Shiitaki, cordyceps and chaga mushrooms.
Some key lifestyle changes will also be recommended since diet isn’t enough to stabilize the body if we are still constantly stressed. Exercise and moving the body is important to keep blood flow, to exert some excess energy and emotions, and to enhance the release of natural feel-good hormones like endorphins and serotonin. One’s internal dialogue and thoughts affects the gut microbiome too, since the brain sends signals to the gut through the gut-brain axis, which causes stress on the gut when thoughts are of a low vibration. Getting enough rest and relaxation practices like meditation and yoga assist to enhance the quality of our thoughts and mind patterns, which assist in stressful conditions. All of these support the gut, supporting digestion, supporting the immune system, supporting mental health and the endocrine system, therefore assisting the whole body system and overall health.