The first job I was fired from, something happened: I felt an immediate lump in my throat, my eyes began to shake with tears, my heart sank and my stomach gurgled. Racing to the washroom, I prayed no one was in there because I had to go. Generally this is what’s happened in the past, but I remember other times when nothing moved for days and I looked so bloated like I was ready to give birth. While I’ve at times felt stress in my chest, I’ve mainly felt it in my gut. Cramping, inability to eat for days during a breakup or punishing myself with a row of cookies (okay fine, the whole box) until I’d spent the rest of the evening punishing myself mentally for how ugly I was.
And I’ve seen this gut-brain pattern with many of my patients becoming a digestive slave to their stressful thoughts. Their second brain (their gut) ruled and at times completely took over manifesting in constipation, diarrhea, bloating, nausea and even acid reflux.
So the question becomes: Why does it happen & how do we control our second brain?
Neurons: Why you feel it in your gut
Researchers have known for a while now that our digestive systems function as our second brain. And it’s no wonder when the gastrointestinal tract has more neurons than anywhere else in the body except for the brain. So the second stress strikes, in most of us, it goes immediately to our guts.
So what can we do?
I have touted the benefits of probiotics in past posts and in practice, but more research continues to flood in about increased cortisol levels (our stress hormones) in individuals who have a lack of friendly bacteria in their digestive system. So just when we think that our stress levels can impact our gut, it can also be the reverse. So to prevent the negative impacts of stress, dose up on a probiotic that’s at least 10billion/capsule daily with breakfast.
Small but frequent meals
During a passed breakup, eating was the last thing I wanted to do. I had lost close to 15lbs in two weeks and felt weaker and a complete emotional wreck. In Chinese Medicine, when we suffer from obsessive thoughts our digestive system (our Spleen Qi) will inevitably become weak and we’ll lose our appetite and may become nauseas. So go easy on yourself! Don’t flood it with tons of food because your family is forcing you to eat. Instead, have small frequent meals even if it’s so small that it fits in the palm of your hand. Work up and slowly.
Stay away from cold foods
When you’re stressed, your stomach fire (or hydrochloric acid) weakens substantially so stay away from raw foods. Raw foods have a cold property and can extinguish your digestive fire and promote loose bowel movements, so instead add in gluten-free, digestive friendly foods like soups and small grain bowls with warming spices like cinnamon and ginger.
GABA & GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease)
New research is coming out suggesting that GABA (gamma-Aminobutryic acid) an inhibitory neurotransmitter can actually be beneficial for those who have acid reflux or GERD. Many people who suffer from heartburn do so because stress can loosen the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) creating acid to spiral up. Research is now suggesting that the addition of GABA can actually inhibit this action likely due to its ability to reduce stress levels. So along with an anti-inflammatory diet, take 200mg of GABA twice daily away from meals.
The gut-brain connection is astounding and during the webinar that I’ll be holding as part of the Stress Detox I’ll be speaking more about this connection. In addition, the 14-day Stress Detox plan of recipes, supplement, lifestyle and meal plan is going to be incredibly focused on stress and digestive health. Plus I’ve got Naturopathic Doctor David Miller providing five different inexpensive homeopathic remedies that will help to shift your stress levels from an energetic perspective. Add in seven yoga tutorials, daily mantras an meditation and you’ll feel more grounded and centred to take on your crazy day. Plus this year I’m providing a private Facebook group where you’ll receive support, motivation and become accountable to finish and you’ve got yourself a recipe for success.