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This is the second article in a series about stress and your health. Catch up with the first article here. Last week we learned about the role of your adrenal glands in keeping up your energy so you can keep up with life. Did you know that these two little glands are important to our overall health in many other ways? Having weak adrenals often affects our digestion and our gastrointestinal health. Your ongoing daily stresses put you in a constant “fight or flight” mode, and part of what that surge of cortisol does is to increase blood flow to your muscles (so you can fight, flee, or lift a car off a child). This means decreased blood flow to your digestive processes, since in a real emergency, saving your hide takes priority over digesting your lunch. With less blood flow to your stomach, your stomach stops making digestive acid for a while, leading to indigestion and poor absorption of your food, especially minerals and vitamin B-12. Your intestines move less, too. The normal intestinal movement, or peristalsis, also slows down when we’re stressed out. Undigested bits of food passed on from the not-acidic-enough stomach continue down into the small intestine, where enzymes that weren’t designed to break down proteins try to do some good. Your large intestine slows too, and you start to feel sluggish — not just from constipation, but because toxins from the stool start to get re-absorbed from your intestines back into the blood. So what can you do today to reduce your stress levels? I know you can’t quit your job, and that lotto ticket in your wallet probably isn’t the winner. Try these quick and easy stress reducers:
  • Every hour, or at least a few times a day, stop and take 3 to 5 slow, deep breaths. Let your belly fill up like a balloon on each inhale, and squeeze out every last bit of air from each exhale. You can’t breathe deeply like this and be stressed out at the same time! I dare you to try.
  • Drink a glass of water 30 minutes before each meal. It will help your stomach to produce more acid, which believe it or not, you’re probably not making enough of if you’re constantly stressed and/or if you’re an antacid junkie and/or over 40.
  • Eat breakfast every day! Preferably within ONE HOUR OF WAKING UP. I know, it sounds crazy, right? You’re not even hungry in the morning. Do it, and see how your ability to handle stress improves.
I’d love to hear about healthy ways you deal with stress. And if you try the 3 tips above, please let me know how they worked for you here in the comments or on my Facebook page. In the next article, we’ll see how staying at this level of stress leads to “leaky gut” (and just what “leaky gut” means).