Stress and Gut Health

Posted: April 10, 2012 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

Ever get nervous before an event, a public speech, meeting the significant other’s parents and have the butterflies in your stomach? Our gut and brain are connected via the largest nerve in our body; the vagus nerve. This also shows that how we feel ultimately affects our gut health. This is why lately I have been putting a lot of emphasis on stress management in our health protocols. No matter what exercises we are following or how strict we are with our diets, if we do not handle our stress we will suffer the consequences.

If you remember from previous posts our stress response is a defense mechanism that has been instilled in us for all of time. Our body prepares itself to run or to fight. In doing so it will divert the blood flow from the gut to working muscles. This will leave any undigested food in the GI tract to remain there. Also, our fight or flight response will increase our large intestinal motility. The large intestines are there to move waste through the system and reabsorb water. Anything left in there is just dead weight. The body will increase the motility in the large intestines to drop off that dead weight so that we can run faster. Due to the increased water in the large intestine this waste most often will come out as diarhea.

Now let us put this scenerio in the modern world. We sleep poorly which increases our stress levels, rush to get to work, get yelled at by our boss, have tough deadlines to meet, have to leave work to get the kids to soccer practice, run to the gym and get a workout in, cook dinner, watch a scary movie, and then we do it all over again. These examples can be replaced with a number of things. Our body responds to these stressors by releasing CRH (explained in a previous blog post) and then gluccocorticoids. All day long our body is shutting down digestion in the small intestines and increasing motility in the large intestines. In some people this causes bouts of constipation followed by bouts of loose stools, also known as IBS.

Even if you are not suffering from IBS like symptoms this can have some serious impact on your health. By constantly being under stress we are not digesting and absorbing the nutrients we need to maintain adequate health. This is due to our body’s diverting the attention from digesting our meal to getting us ready to escape from a predator. Poor digestion can lead to inconsistent stools, bloating, gas, and deficiencies in vitamins and nutrients. Not to mention when we are under stress our bodyies will suppress the immune response making us more susceptible to disease. A topic that will be discussed further in a future blog post.

We often tend to overlook stress as a typical part of the day. Please take the stress management stuff seriously, or all the hard work spent in the gym and preparing paleo meals will go to waste. Our gut is 70% of our immune system and its health is directly tied to our quality of life and longevity.

  1. Jonathan Bransfield says:

    For my body, caffeine is a crucial part of elevated stress and gut discomfort. Nerves, nervousness and butterflies amplify with even a small cup of decaf–even has an undeniable impact on the quality of my sleep 12 hours later. I think a caffeine fast for several days or weeks is a really valid experiment. My boss is such a donkey, I need every advantage I can find.

  2. Definitely man. Caffeine is a big no-no to people with mental illness due to the same reactions. NOt to mention the people that drink coffee in the afternoon and the poor sleep habits it creates. Good stuff!

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