Don’t Stress Out Your Microbiome
It’s 8:07 a.m. and you’re still stuck in traffic, a quarter mile down the road from your job.
You know there’s an important meeting at 8:15 that you need to be at to suggest some ideas you have for your team — but you can’t suggest them if you aren’t there.
If only you didn’t hit that extra snooze.
If only your dog didn’t run out the door and decide to play tag for 5 minutes before realizing he was hungry.
If only your kid could’ve passed his driver’s license test and taken himself to school — maybe you could have missed this traffic jam and had time to prepare to give the speech you’ve been rehearsing in your head for the past week.
You get into work and you’re a ball of nerves — palms, underarms, and forehead are all sweating.
You’re shaking and flushed from rushing up the stairs because you might just be faster than the old elevator at your job.
You get into your office and your boss is out sick so the meeting was canceled.
You’re now exhausted, angry, and your nerves are shot.
Your stomach feels like it’s a gymnast performing in the Olympics and your energy for the day is zapped.
You, my friend, are stressed the heck out — and it’s destroying your gut and body along with your nerves.
What is Stress and Why is it Necessary?
We all know what feeling stressed is like, but why can’t we just deal with it?
Why do we need to feel these awful feelings and where are they coming from anyway?
The definition of stress is:
“a specific response by the body to a stimulus, as fear or pain, that disturbs or interferes with the normal physiological equilibrium of an organism.”
Basically, stress is your body’s line of defense in situations that require you to go into “fight or flight mode”.
This systemic reaction was extremely necessary when we were cave people.
A lion or bear comes crashing into your campsite trying to gobble you up — you need the adrenaline coursing through your veins so you can get to safety.
You’re late to work for a meeting — not so much.
So why, then, do our bodies still react as if we are going to be maimed by a beast (the animal beast, not your boss).
Our bodies react with the stress response to things that threaten our lives and families.
While getting fired from your job won’t directly kill you, it does create a difficult position for you to provide food, water, and shelter for your family — hence the stress response being activated.
There are two classifications of stress responses that happen in your body: acute and chronic.
- Acute stress is a fast onset stress response that stops when the stressor is gone.
- Chronic stress is when the stress response stays on in a loop and keeps reactivating — this is where stress becomes dangerous.
While some stress is good — like exercise — to make your body grow and become resistant to stressors, excessive stressful situations wreak havoc on your body.
The HPA Axis: Your Stress Switch
Stress isn’t just a visible thing — grey hairs and blackened bags under your eyes.
Stress has a lot to do with what goes on inside of your body too.
Your response to stressors flips the switch to ‘on’ in your hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis.
- First, your sympathetic adrenal medullary system is activated and begins releasing adrenaline and noradrenaline.
- The hypothalamus is triggered by this to release corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF).
- CRF stimulates the anterior pituitary gland to start synthesizing adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH).
- ACTH then triggers the adrenal cortex to start producing the glucocorticoids (GCs) cortisol and corticosterone.
All of these circulating products are helpful in making your body ready for fighting or running (flight).
They make your blood circulate to your extremities so your muscles can perform at their best.
Constant reactivation of your HPA axis — which happens with chronic stress — forces your HPA axis to malfunction.
This malfunction leads to many of the stress-associated problems we are all familiar with like:
- Change in eating habits
- Stress eating
- Appetite loss
- Hair falling out or turning grey
- Increase in wrinkles
- Inability to sleep
- Decreased immune system response leading to health problems like:
- Autoimmune disorders
- Skin reactions (acne, eczema, rosacea, and hives)
- Gastrointestinal issues (GERD, IBS, IBD, and peptic ulcers)
Stress and Your Gut
Since we are a gut health company, here at Atrantil, we will focus on the gastrointestinal (GI) issues that stress can bring about.
Remember when we said that the stress response forces your blood to your extremities? Well, this is the reason behind stress-related GI issues.
For digestion, your body needs blood to help sort through and circulate the nutrients from your food. Blood is also needed to help the muscles of your digestive tract push the remains of your food through to be excreted.
This constant decrease in blood flow in your digestive tract leads to:
- Changes in gastrointestinal motility
- Increase in intestinal permeability (leaky gut)
- Changes to the gastrointestinal mucosa
- Imbalance in gut microbiota
These problems not only lead to GI disorders like IBS and GERD but also create a chronic inflammatory state throughout your entire body.
Chronic systemic inflammation has been linked to cardiovascular diseases, autoimmune disorders, and cancer.
Why You Stress Eat or Stress Don’t Eat
Earlier we stated that stress can affect your eating habits, and it’s necessary to explain why so you can avoid it in the future.
While stress eating isn’t the only cause of weight gain and obesity, it definitely has a hand in that extra pudge around your midline.
One study found that people who were bored, anxious, or stressed tended to reach for food when they weren’t hungry opposed to those who were happy.
But why do we do this? It’s compulsive — or it feels that way anyway.
When your HPA axis is in overdrive it forces hormones to be emitted that control your appetite.
Your HPA axis pretty much turns you into a food zombie when it never turns off and you end up eating excessively or not at all without realizing what you’re doing.
Shutting Off the Neverending Cycles of Stress
The main causes of stress outside of the obvious (boss, kids, work, school, etc.) are:
- Lack of sleep
- Poor diet
- No exercise or too much exercise
You can’t control your boss, work, school, or really your kids at some points, but you can control these other factors.
- Getting adequate sleep allows for your body to heal itself and reduce the damages stress can create.
- Eating diets high in short-chain fatty acids, probiotics, prebiotics, and polyphenols can help your GI tract to heal and reduce intestinal permeability.
- Taking supplements that help support your GI tract, as Atrantil does, can help to reduce leaky gut and chronic inflammation.
- Working out without overdoing it helps to rid your body of those extra jitters from your HPA axis activation.
- Meditation and other calming activities can help you to manage stress as well and lead your body on the path of healing
Get yourself some Atrantil, check out a yoga class, get to bed early and you’ll have yourself a great (stress-free) day!
How do you deal with stress? Let us know in the comments below!