I clearly recall when I started having some serious brain fog and gut health issues. At the time, I had just wrapped up my wedding and honeymoon (both planned by yours truly), orchestrated the sale of our first home, coordinated the move out of state, bought a fixer upper and started the renovation process. Oh and my husband and I really had no previous renovation experience but figured that we’d just learn as we go. Did I tell you I was also starting a brand new career?
To say this was stressful would be a total understatement.
Stress is a major factor in the development of gut health issues. Because our mind and gut are intimately connected by the vagus nerve it is common to experience brain fog, depression and anxiety at the same time as gut issues.
When your body is stressed, you stop digesting food properly. Your body needs for you to survive after all, and digestion isn’t as important as running away. Now, today’s stressors for you might just be a big move, or new job or remodeling your first house but your body doesn’t know the difference between that and being chased by a hungry tiger.
In Paleolithic times, just for instance, when you’re chased by a tiger, your body helps you to run. When you’re out of danger, you relax again and can digest food. But modern stressors aren’t like that, they’re more constant. With constant threat (or stressors) you never get that feeling of safety and so your digestion continues to be compromised.
Then comes some unpleasantness:
- food sensitivities
- brain fog
- weight gain
- feeling crappy in the jeans you bought just a couple weeks ago
The good news is that there are some strategies you can implement at home, and for free, in order to get your gut back into working order.
- Laughing – Tilt your head back, open your mouth and just start laughing from deep in your throat. This helps to stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system (your rest and digest system). It does this by tickling your vagus nerve which is like a communication highway between your brain and gut. When you do this your body can digest foods effectively and get the nutrients you need from these foods.
- Deep Breathing – Deep belly breathing helps to reduce stress significantly by turning off the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) and turning on the parasympathetic nervous system. This was researched over 40 years ago by Dr. Benson at Harvard University. More recently, it’s been discovered how techniques like deep breathing can help cut health care costs by 43%! How to do this? Take 10 deep breaths into your belly (let your belly expand) and try this as many times you need throughout your day.
- Just Say No – If you are a people pleaser, this one is for you! Saying yes to things you don’t want to do is stressful. On the other hand, saying no to things you don’t want to do, allows you to say yes to things you do want to do. Increasing your pleasure and joy is pivotal for reducing stress.
- Get Dirty – The best probiotics are in the soil. You don’t need to eat a spoonful of dirt to get the benefits either. If you have a garden, start digging! Have a carrots growing? Gently rinse them and then eat them, leaving some of the smaller microbes on them. Is the temperature pleasant where you are? Take off your shoes and go barefoot outside. You need this connection with nature to diversify your microbiome (on your skin and in your gut).
By reducing your stress through a variety of techniques, you turn off your sympathetic nervous system that damages your gut and you turn on your parasympathetic nervous system that helps heal your gut.
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