By Dietitian Jill Place
Teaching you about leaky gut is my passion! So much that I now call myself “The Good Gut Queen”, write blogs, and talk about it 5 days a week LIVE on Facebook. I now even have several crowns … including one made from AMETHYST!
But seriously, 80% of us have leaky gut. And some of us don’t even have any symptoms. If you still don’t know what leaky gut is and why it’s so vital to heal it, read my article, What IS Leaky Gut?
Wow … I’ve written a lot about what causes leaky gut. And you may be surprised about what else does next …
Stress Causes as Much Gut Damage as Food, Drugs and Toxins
A 2011 article from the Journal of Physiology of Pharmacology entitled “Stress and the Gut” explained it this way:
… According to a definition given by H. Selye, stress is defined as an acute threat to the homeostasis of an organism …We conclude that 1) exposure to stress (especially chronic stress) is a major risk factor in the pathogenesis of different diseases of gastrointestinal tract including gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), peptic ulcer, functional dyspepsia,inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), irritable bowel disease (IBS),and other functional disorders of GI tract; 2) the dysregulation of brain-gut-axis plays a central role in the pathogenesis of stress-induced diseases; 3) Stress increases intestinal permeability,visceral sensitivity, alteration in GI-motility and leads to profound mast cell activation resulting in release of many proinflammatory mediators …
Too technical? Let me break it down for you …
Stress Disturbs the Gut-Brain Axis
Ever heard of the Gut-Brain? Well … research has shown that the intestinal lining/microbiome is threaded with a web of nerve filaments that are directly connected to and affected by the brain.
This means that the brain not only affects the gut but is an integral part of the nervous system. Ever had a “gut feeling”? Where do you think that old saying intuitively came from?
And … just think … this web of nerves goes everywhere. One way that this is evident, according to research, is as acne and other skin problems. Stress can cause leaky gut, which then, through the body’s neural network, can inflame the skin, our body’s largest organ.
Exercise Causes Gut Stress
My mother always told me when we went to the beach (we went often; I grew up in Long Island, which is mostly coastline), “Don’t go in the water for at least an hour after you eat!” Yet another old saying with truthful roots.
Because the body is very smart. When you exercise, it shuts down digestion and diverts its resources to the muscles. Where it’s most needed at the time. So make sure you don’t load up before you take your run or lift those weights.
Because if you’ve got a bunch of undigested food in there, good luck! It just stays in the gut and ferments, which is ice cream and donuts for “The Bad Gut Guys” to grow.
Also, more exercise isn’t better. Research study after research study shows that the best duration for exercise is 60 minutes maximum. Because the more you work out, the more cortisol is released. This results in the release of stress hormones and an inflammatory response.
We’re no longer conditioned to running all day like the Masai or Aborigines. And most will never run a marathon. My advice about exercise … work smarter, not longer.
The Stress-Adrenal Cortisol-Leaky Gut Connection
Any stress that you experience, whether it’s too much exercise or too much emotion, is processed exactly the same … through your adrenal glands. Any stress is met with a veritable overflow of stress hormones … including cortisol. Stress hormones, like exercise, shut down the digestive and immune systems.
As a result of gut bacteria sensing this response, once-harmless organisms may now become problematic. They can rapidly multiply and mutate. Along with the shut-down of the digestive system, and the immune system within it, the microbiome is thrown radically off-kilter. Infection and inflammation … and leaky gut proliferate.
Thus the systems that normally protect us, with stress, become more vulnerable to infection, inflammation, and bacterial overgrowth.
Chronic Stress and Leaky Gut
The stress response is a necessary. protective mechanism in all animals. A way for early man to innately be protected from imminent threats, like being chased by a sabre-tooth tiger.
It’s also great when you get knocked in the head or cut yourself with a knife. The immune system then activates and creates inflammation to fight infection.
All well and good if you’re running from a threat or have a cut. The body mobilizes and then goes back into balance. You can also define this as going from a sympathetic, fight-or-flight response, to a parasympathetic, rest-and-digest one.
Unfortunately, we’re still living with Neanderthal-man physiology in many ways. And this type of response isn’t ideal for the type of chronic, ongoing stress we face today. We’re working 80 hours a week (I know I am), always on our computers and phones, and stuck in traffic for hours (ditto!).
We never unplug these days (literally and figuratively). Not to mention the fact that Wi-Fi also damages your gut (another topic for another day). As a result, your body never stops being inflamed and overrun with pathological bacteria that cause all sorts of problems.
How All this Affects Your Health
OK … let’s recap. All this stress shuts down the digestive and immune systems. Friendly bacteria then become “Bad Gut Guys” and multiply and mutate. Imbalances in your microbiome result, which leads to many problems.
Among them, candida, SIBO, and other forms of overgrowth. Not to mention mast cell (a part of the immune system) activation, which is responsible for histamine intolerance. It’s a HUGE health buzzword today. And yet another topic for another day.
All this can subsequently cause MORE stress due to yet another mechanism. Remember that neural network? Well, 95% of serotonin (our “feel good” neurotransmitter that modulates all aspects of well-being) is made in your gut.
And a gut that’s compromised produces less. An overall vicious cycle that needs to stop. NOW!
What to Do …
My advice … STOP FIGHT-OR-FLIGHT CHRONIC STRESS! An easy way to do this is to PRACTICE MINDFULNESS …