There has been a great emphasis on the importance of stress management. Lifestyle choices significantly influence how we cope with stress. Some indicators that stress level may be of concern may be evident in how much pleasure we get in daily life. So if you are not sleeping enough, eating enough, are overworked, and don’t play enough, dis-stress is a major component of your daily life and will influence your body’s response and may further create an opportune path to dis-ease.
Previously we’ve discussed global health indicators as well as adrenal and thyroid health. Another major organ system that is adversely affected by stress is the digestive system. Real or perceived chronic stressors from lifestyle or environment exposure over an extended time period tend to alter the homeostasis of the body and result in an overall adaptive process.
The digestive system is comprised of a fine physical and biochemical network that is responsible for gastric secretion, gut motility, mucosal permeability and barrier function, visceral sensitivity and mucosal blood flow, which is sensitive to stress-induced hormones, ischemia (loss of blood flow), and pH changes. The gut is the enteric nervous system, a significant portion of the autonomic system, and considered to be the “second brain.”
The biochemical cascade that occurs at a time of stress immediately influences digestive functions via corticotrophin releasing factors (CRFs) that affect:
- Modulation of inflammation
- Increase gut permeability
- Increased visceral hypersensitivity
- Increased perception of pain
- Modulation of gut motility
- Changes in composition of microbiota due to neurotransmitter and inflammatory cytokine levels
- Increased bacterial overgrowth
- Reduced microbial diversity
- Increased susceptibility to enteric pathogens
- Potential development of GI diseases, such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), peptic ulcer disease, irritable bowel disease (IBD), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), food sensitivities, and food allergies
- Increased skin eruptions (rosacea & acne) due to systemic and local skin inflammation
So now the question is what to do to help improve the integrity of a compromised digestive system? Here are a few tips on how to help modulate the hypersensitivity and permeability of the gut:
- Consuming probiotic foods and supplements
- High levels of probiotics
- Omega-3 fatty acids
- Vitamins A and D
- Reducing inflammation
- Regulate glycemic control
- Eating “real food” – fresh, unprocessed, unrefined, organic, pasture-raised, wild-caught, seasonal
- Normalizing stress hormones in the brain
- Chiropractic, yoga, relaxation techniques, being outdoors, deep breathing, meditation, neuro-feedback, physical activity, etc.
It is becoming more and more apparent that reducing stress is a vital component to physical, chemical, and emotional health and wellness, with the maintenance of a healthy weight, normalized blood sugar, fatigue, increased immunity, and improved sleep patterns. The ability to minimize stress on a regular basis will ensure well-being and longevity for a lifetime.
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Be healthy & happy, Dr. Tijana