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Stress or Digest_Final

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>> Hi! Welcome back. Let me ask you a question. When was the last time you felt stressed out about something? Maybe it was a first date or a deadline at work or you were running late for an important appointment. From everyday annoyances to major catastrophes, stress is something that, whether we like it or not, affects us all. It's a major factor behind just about any health issue and can be a huge determinant of a person's overall health. As Joshua says, it doesn't matter how healthy a person eats if they're stressed out all the time. Stress is inevitable in life, so the goal isn't to avoid it altogether. There will always be bumps in the road. The key is learning to manage how you navigate the bumps in the road to minimize their impact. Since all clients deal with some level of stress in their lives, it's important to understand the impact this has on the gut. In this lecture, we're going to take a look at how stress directly affects digestion. As an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, the connection between stress and digestive issues may seem obvious, but it's often overlooked by clients and other healthcare providers. Stress management is one of the top areas where you can offer your support and encourage awareness. For example, I had a client Mona, who was the head of her department at a Fortune 500 company. When sales were down, she tried to keep a level head and an upbeat attitude. But on the inside, she felt like she was living life on an adrenaline rollercoaster. Mona regularly ate her meals on the go or during meetings while going over the numbers. Can you imagine how her digestion was handling that? Poor sales numbers don't digest very well. Mona had been putting on weight for the past year despite the fact that not much had changed in her diet. In fact, she ate a lot of healthy foods, but she felt bloated after meals. And when she ate too fast, which she often did, she suffered from heartburn and indigestion. Have you ever had a client like Mona? It can be frustrating for a client when their healthy eating doesn't reflect their weight or how they feel? Mona wasn't even considering that her lifestyle was the culprit behind what she was experiencing. As a Health Coach, this is an opportunity for you to explain the basics of digestion and the toll that stress can take on this process. In this scenario, eating more kale isn't going to do much for Mona, unless she addresses the root of the problem. Over time, if her stress continues, her body will become depleted and other conditions will start to pop up. Let's break down what's happening on the inside when Mona gets stressed. Essentially her digestive enzymes stop releasing and her stomach is less acidic due to low hydrochloric acid production. Oxygen and blood is diverted away from her digestion, enter her brain and muscles instead. That laser focus that helps Mona nail her meetings isn't so good for breaking down food. When the body interprets stress, it signals an immediate need which puts digestion on the backburner. Putting food in the body when it's getting the alarm to shut down digestion is stressful to the gut. Over time, Mona will increase her allostatic load or the wear and tear on her body due to physiological responses that accumulate with chronic stress. It's estimated that 75% to 90% of all doctor visits are for ailments or conditions that are tied to stress. Wow, that's a lot. In a society that's experiencing an epidemic of chronic disease, stress is a large contributor. Most people have at least some idea that stress contributes to major health problems, so a lack of awareness isn't the issue. The real problem is more often a disconnect between the science and how clients are living their lives. Many feel that they're doing the best they can, don't know how to change the way they're living or don't want to make the necessary sacrifices. Simply put, we become habituated to our hectic lifestyles. Have you ever worked with a client who was resistant to altering their lifestyle despite the fact it was wearing them out? Even when clients know that stress may be affecting their digestion and their overall health, they can be very reluctant to change habits and patterns that are deeply ingrained. So what is stress? We experience it and refer to it all the time, but what exactly is it? By definition, stress is any type of physical, mental, or emotional factor that causes tension in the body. This tension causes chemical, physical, or behavioral changes. Stress is what initiates the body's fight or flight response. From an evolutionary standpoint, this feature was advantageous for our survival. There are two main forms of stress. Mental stress is the psychological experience of distress, which occurs as the result of how a person perceives their internal or external environment. Mental stress can include negative thoughts, worry, anxiety, and overwhelm of emotions. Physical stress refers to the physiological distress that originates in the body which can include food intolerances, toxins, pollutants, intense workouts, poor sleep, injuries, and childbirth. Stress can also be real or perceived whether you're running from a tiger or you think your boss is going to fire you, either scenario, can feel life threatening. On the basic level, the nervous system sounds the alarm, and is ready to respond quickly so that the body can address whatever might be happening. The body's response and the subsequent feeling is the same. Stress is a short-term solution for heightened circumstances, the problem is when our entire lives become heightened circumstances, the alarm keeps ringing. The alarm is your body activating the sympathetic nervous system, commonly thought of as the fight or flight response. The sympathetic system slows down the movement of food through the gastrointestinal track when the body is in fight or flight mode to prepare for action. The parasympathetic nervous system, which you can remember as the rest and digest system, controls digestion, sexual arousal, salivation, urination, and defecation. This system slows to a halt when the body is stressed to conserve energy for survival activities. The parasympathetic system is supposed to kick into gear during and after eating, but stress will activate the sympathetic nervous system. This compromises the ability of the parasympathetic nervous system to function. Basically, you can either stress or digest. Why is this? Several things start to happen when stress is perceived. The hypothalamus in the brain tells the pituitary gland to turn on certain hormones in the adrenal glands like cortisol. Additionally, the fight or flight sympathetic nervous system is activated. This rapidly responds to stress by increasing your heart rate, the blood flow to muscles and brain, and your blood sugar. This system also releases norepinephrine, this is the hormone that works with epinephrine to respond to stress by increasing blood pressure. It also tells the adrenal glands to make adrenaline. At this point, your body prioritizes escaping danger whether or not it's actually in any danger. Smooth muscles in the body contract, including the intestines, blood is diverted from the organs to the muscles and the brain so that you can make a quick escape and have mental sharpness to handle the threat at hand. Digestive enzymes stop flowing and production of stomach acid decreases. As you can see, all the things necessary for digestion aren't happening. It's helpful to picture the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems as the gas and the brakes in a car. When you press on one, you have to take your foot off the other. In fight or flight mode, the entire body is mobilized to respond to danger. Blood sugar rises to provide the body with more fuel. The liver breaks down sugar instead of sending bile to the gallbladder, breathing and heart rate speed up. All of this is helpful in a state of emergency. But what if your body is stressed all the time not just once in awhile? With little time spent in rest and digest mode, not only is digesting compromised but elevated blood sugar creates a whole other problem to contend with. The good news is not all stress is bad. Stress can also be categorized into acute or chronic types. Acute is short-term stress like getting nervous, right, before speaking in front of a crowd. Chronic stress is long-term like caring for a parent with a degenerative disease. Acute stress is considered normal and causes the body to perform on an elevated and focused level. It can actually enhance performance by helping you keep your eye on the prize. But after the first surge of adrenaline if the stressor is still present, the body activates what's called the HPA axis. HPA stands for hypothalamus, pituitary, and adrenal. This hormonal system works to keep the body in a state where it can respond to the ongoing stress by releasing more hormones, including corticotropin releasing hormone CRH, adrenocorticotropic hormone ACTH, and cortisol. Beyond slowing down digestion, the continuous release of these hormones can negatively impact the body in a variety of ways, including increased belly fat, food intolerances and food allergies, leaky gut, elevated blood sugar, increased inflammation, an altered microbiome, increased risk for GERD, acid reflux, indigestion, and ulcers, aggravated IBS symptoms, increased risks for SIBO, and lowered immunity. Now that's quite the laundry list. You can see why stress is at the root of so many doctors' visits. Chronic stress weakens the body making it susceptible to many other conditions. Let's explore these 10 consequences of chronic stress in more detail. Ready? Increased belly fat, stress signals the release of cortisol, elevated cortisol causes an increase in visceral abdominal fat, the fat around the waist and the organs known as belly fat. This is the dangerous kind of fat. It produces cytokines which causes inflammation. Prolonged inflammation from visceral abdominal fat can increase a person's risk for heart disease, vascular disease, poor blood sugar control, depression, and dementia. It's possible to be thin everywhere else on your body and have high visceral fat. This is often accompanied with low muscle tone. Cortisol can also stimulate increased appetite causing a person to take in more calories than they need. What happens here is that even though you haven't burned any extra calories escaping danger, your body thinks you have and signals for more. Many clients struggle with, what's casually known as, stress eating. While there's an emotional component often involved in this, it can be eye-opening to explain this process to your clients and raise their awareness to the fact that their stress may actually be driving them to overeat. This can be an incentive for your clients, who are trying to lose weight, to work more relaxation into their routine. Food intolerances and allergies. When the body is stressed, it releases chemicals including histamines, which will intensify allergies. Stress is not the cause of an allergy, but it can make the gut more sensitive to one that exists, increasing food intolerances and flare-ups as a consequence. The reverse is also true. A food intolerance can send ordinary stress signals through the roof. You know how when you're in a bad mood, one relatively minor annoyance like being stuck in traffic can set you over the edge. It's like that. When cortisol levels are high and blood sugar is soaring, the body becomes more sensitive to various foods. Leaky gut. Stress affects the mucosal barrier in small intestines and colon, which can contribute to the development or aggravation of a leaky gut. The body secretes mucin to protect against damage during stress, but chronic stress can disrupt this function. Chronic stress leads to inflammation which can break down the intestinal lining over time and cause further intestinal permeability. In general, inflammation makes things more leaky so that the cells that need to fix the problem can get through. You can think of it this way. When you have a cut on your hand, the inflammatory response opens up the tissue layer so that immune system cells are able to go in and fix your cut. Once the cut is repaired, the inflammation decreases, and the leakiness stops. But the problem with chronic stress is that inflammation has nothing to actually fix. As a result, things stay leaky while the body tries to resolve this problem. Tight junction in the gut lining start to break down and blood circulation is diverted away from the gut. This promotes malabsorption which limits the guts ability to rebuild. Bacteria can also find their way across the epithelial barrier and can stimulate the immune system. Elevated blood sugar levels. When stressed, the body produces glucose, this fuels the fight or flight response passing sugar along to your muscles so they're ready for any danger. When stress becomes chronic, this can be a problem. Cortisol from stress prevents the body from producing insulin which carries glucose into your cells because the body believes it will need quick access to the sugar for the flight part of fight or flight. As a result, too much glucose is in the blood elevating blood sugar levels. This can set the body up for insulin resistance. Stress affects our ability to eat those carbs we love. So while it's tempting to turn to comfort foods in times of stress, your clients are better off saving that donut for when they are in a calmer state, as the body can efficiently take in that extra sugar. Increased inflammation. We all know chronic inflammation takes a toll on the body. Stress increases inflammation, and inflammation creates more stress. And another whammy, stress-induced inflammation can lead to anxiety and depression. It's not coincidental that our society is hitting an all-time high in the prevalence of these conditions while at the same time experiencing an increase in gut issues. Inflammation also makes it harder to absorb the nutrients and building blocks of life. How can we feel our best when we are inflamed. An altered microbiome. Stress affects diversity. The more stressed a person is, the less healthy bacteria exist in their gut. The good news is that stress is something you can help your clients manage. Keeping stress levels at bay can prevent all the negative side effects that come with a stressed microbiome. Both emotional stress and physical stress affect the microbiome, so it's important not to push too hard physically either. Increased acid reflux, indigestion, GERD, and ulcers. Acid reflux is a very common problem. We'll go over this condition in more detail in another lecture. But for now, just know that many people experience an increase in reflux when they're stressed. Has this ever happened to you? We don't know why this is and this is the topic still under debate, but stress seems to make people more sensitive therefore, they experience more heartburn. Gastric acid doesn't increase, but it appears the protective lipids in the stomach may be decreased during stress, allowing for the acid to come into direct contact with the stomach lining more often. Intensified IBS symptoms. As mentioned earlier, stress increases sensitivity in the gut. This also applies to IBS, recall that individuals with IBS experience hypersensitivity in the gut. This results in heightened response to pain and therefore you get IBS symptoms and flare-ups when the delicate gut is triggered. For people with IBS, stress is like adding insult to injury, it can be a trigger and an intensifier, it can feel hard to take it easy when IBS symptoms are keeping clients down. But a focus on calming exercises and stress reduction can be really helpful. Increased risk of developing SIBO. In times of stress, the risk of SIBO increases because rest and digest is not activated. Part of rest and digest is the activation of the migrating motor complex, the cleaner or janitor. The migrating motor complex is something we will go into later, but its action is muscular, similar to peristalsis, except its job rather than moving food through is to come and clean up the residue, moving all the bacteria or any other waste from the small intestine back into the colon. As a result, the MMC is not activated, and bacteria may not be swept out of the small intestines effectively as they should be. Also, during stress, regular peristalsis is slowed. The slower the transit time, the higher the likelihood of SIBO developing. Lowered immunity. Cortisol released during stress suppresses immune functions. During acute stress, immune functions are enhanced, but chronic stress, overall, suppresses immune function. This is why people who are stressed are more susceptible to getting sick. After living in a state of chronic stress for a while, the body will develop a new set point or threshold for what's considered stressful. Set points are habitual responses by the body that activate the HPA axis. At a low set point, the brain will react with the full stress response even to small stressors. At this stage, the body is stuck in survival mode with no off switch. This is similar to when the body is used to being at a certain weight, and so it craves the amount of calories needed to keep a person at that weight. When the body gets used to a certain level of chemical stress, it works to maintain the status quo. With chronic stress, you don't know if or when it will end. Therefore, with clients like Mona, their body and lifestyle will adapt to the stress. But the body isn't designed to live in a constant state of stress. Many mood disorders and PTSD are related to stress and dysregulations in the HPA axis. If you keep your foot on the gas pedal at all times, eventually your body will start to give out. We've covered a lot of great information in this lecture, so now let's recap. Stress is a universal experience that can be physical or mental, real or perceived, and it can be acute or chronic. Chronic stress is what's damaging to our health. When stress is long-term, the body perceives that it's perpetually in a state of danger. When the brain registers stress, whether it's a real threat or just a worry, the body responds by activating the sympathetic nervous system, putting it into a state of fight or flight. This overrides the parasympathetic nervous system, the rest and digest mode that the body needs for proper digestion. This results in digestive distress, poor absorption, elevated blood sugar, and can contribute to weight gain. Chronic stress also creates a cascade of hormonal responses creating an elevated supply of hormones like cortisol in the bloodstream. This can lead to a variety of negative consequences for the body in the long-term, eventually unrelenting chronic stress will wear a body out. Food provides the building blocks for health, so when nutrients are being properly absorbed, it can lead to a break down in many other systems. To help your clients achieve optimal health, a large part of your job is to support them out of living in fight or flight mode so they can optimize their rest and digest. The goal is not to eliminate stress altogether but to teach your clients how to become more aware of their stress levels, how to eliminate or manage stressors that can be controlled, and how to implement relaxation and coping strategies when stress is unavoidable. It's important to help your clients identify where their tipping point is and to stay behind that line. It can be helpful to think of stress as if it were money and decide where and when you wish to spend it. For example, a client may decide that she wants to choose to spend her stress dollars on having a child rather than working on a demanding corporate job. From there, it's your job, as a Health Coach, to support your client in developing and pursuing a strategy to do so. It's incredible how a focus on primary foods can help so many clients resolve or improve their digestive distress and shed excess weight. This is a great time to do a self check-in. How are your stress levels? How is your digestion? Can you see a connection between the two in your own life? Head on over to the Facebook group to join the discussion. Until next time, try to digest rather than stress.

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Duration: 23 minutes and 24 seconds
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Language: English
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Posted by: ninaz on Mar 22, 2018

Stress or Digest_Final

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