How Stress Affects Your Health
Hippocrates said ‘All disease begins in the gut’.
Stress creates physiological changes in our bodies. Our body reverts back to its primitive instincts. Should it fight or should it flee? This instinct sets about a chain reaction. When there is stress your blood pressure goes up, your heart beats faster. Your body shunts blood away from your digestive area and into your arms and legs so you can be ready to flee or fight.
When this happens this is what is triggered in your body.
- You stop digesting food so you have decreased nutrient absorption
- You have decreased oxygenation due to blood being pushed to your extremities
- Your metabolism slows because less blood flows to the area
- Enzymes don’t work efficiently because they need co factors from the absorption of foods
- Your mucous membrane in your gastrointestinal system can’t regenerate properly
- There are changes in your digestive secretions
- Increases pain you feel in your digestive organs
- It impacts bacteria in your gut which then has a knock on effect to neurotransmitters- serotonin and GABA which are made in your gut. They effect anxiety and mood
- Alters motility which increases the overgrowth of bacteria which can lead to conditions like SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) or leaky gut.
- Causes inflammation to digestive area if it becomes chronic stress
- Lowers immune system function
Acutes stress is unavoidable in our modern world but ongoing chronic stress is much more prevalent today than ever before. Chronic stress can lead to gastrointestinal diseases i.e. IBS, IBD, food allergies , gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD) and peptic ulcers.
What can you do?
Include stress reducing practices daily – prayer, meditation, yoga, relaxation, dancing, gardening, painting and deep breathing.
Increase your amount of physical activity. Exercise stimulates endorphins, it relieves tension and can improve your mood pretty quickly.
Be mindful of what you are putting in your mouth. Eat foods that serve your body, whole foods, good quality protein sources, fresh fruit and vegetables, nuts, seeds and good fats.
Include fermented foods into your diet. These foods change the pH of the environment in your gut and lead to better conditions for your good bacteria. They are inexpensive and easy to make at home. Some good examples found here. Try including one serve daily.
Ensure you are getting enough down time in your life. Find things that are fun and include them daily. Sleep is also important here. Experiment with going to bed earlier, shutting your screens down and spending time doing low stress activities colouring in, reading, talking with your loved ones.
Stress is inevitable so take small steps daily so it stays at an acute level. Your body will thank you.