Anxiety and Stress Complicate Our Guts

Anxiety and Stress Complicate Our Guts I Paleo Vegeo

I work with clients from all over the globe, and more often than not these days they are under immense stress, and deal with loads of anxiety. Anxiety is known by it's first name here at our house, and it's not a nice word to post on Social Media, so I won't. However I first recognized it when I spent 18 months self medicating with Benedryl in my late teens. It was during this time that I had three safe spaces. Home was the top space, then work, and finally my wonderful friend's house. This was a guy who would give you the shirt off his back, in the freezing rain. As I started to unwind from the anxiety and realize what I was dealing with, that is when my first adult sexual assault happened at my friend's house by his roommate. What I went through after that I can see is linked directly to the years that followed where I was dealing with severe IBD.

The problems arise when we are anxious too much and too often. The fast paced world we live in with its many demands on our time and attention, and the constant exposure to stimuli can cause our anxiety to spiral out of control. So add in Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn. This can be a big problem. When we experience anxiety, certain hormones like adrenaline are released into the body. Our heart rate goes up, our breathing increases, and we get ready for a fight or flight response. Have you ever heard of the stress hormone, cortisol? During times of stress our body releases a hormone called cortisol. This in turn has been linked to weight gain. Add to it the fact that many people grab for comfort foods, chocolate, or salty snacks when they are feeling stressed and anxiety can lead to quite a bit of weight gain. This, combined with the added stress and lack of sleep, adds to a risk of heart disease. In other words, anxiety can be physically debilitating. It is triggered by this stress response, as it is also triggered by our bad eating habits. It’s all perfectly normal if you get anxious every once in a while, but can you see how this combined with some emotional eating issues can keep the body from truly calming down?

We forget what stress does to our internal being when we look at what is at the cornerstone of our wellness struggles. Chronic levels of gut influencing cortisol does horrible things to the one cell thick junction that separates our gut from the body. When we address the stress, the anxiety, the adrenals without addressing our gut - we are missing a huge factor in feeling better and eating better as well.

So what happens when you are in a constant state of anxiety? What happens when you get anxious more and more frequently as many of us do?

Anxiety puts your body on high alert. You feel like you’re facing danger and as a result your heart rate goes up, your palms get sweaty and you start to get stressed out. While this can be a good thing from time to time, for example when it motivates you to prep for a test or an interview, it can also be unpleasant. Most importantly for most of us suffering from anxiety, it will be completely useless. People tend to get anxious about things completely out of their control. In those cases, there’s no benefit to the anxiety, stress, and putting your body on high alert.

All it does is make you feel terrible and cause you to lose sleep, and loss of sleep or insomnia is one of the negative effects of anxiety. Sleep also impacts our gut health. Melatonin helps maintain our gut health, as well as a recent study from Sweden showed that not getting sufficient sleep for just two nights, significantly affected the participants gut flora. Lack of sleep doesn’t make for a good day and it will negatively impact your performance for the day. You can imagine that long term bouts of insomnia can take their toll on your body.

While it takes some time for physical debilitation to manifest itself in our bodies, the mental effects of anxiety I have found are immediate. With severe anxiety it can be hard to function in everyday life. You constantly seem stressed out and fearful. As anxiety starts to spiral out of control, you may come up with coping mechanisms like avoiding stressful situations and people. I personally found I could no longer go grocery shopping or out with friends except during off hours when I was first struggling with anxiety. Without understanding how intertwined it all was with my gut, and my methylation pathways, I find myself falling into depression. I have to still watch myself because I am inclined to move into that uncomfortable comfort zone if I don't realize what is happening with my diet.

A lot of kids have high anxiety from life, nutrition, social media... and it morphs into depression for them as well. It gets hard to find the energy to get out of bed in the morning and face life. Being on high alert and pumped full of those stress hormones is exhausting. Staying in bed seems like a much better alternative. If you find your anxiety starting to negatively impact your life, please seek professional help. While anxiety can be debilitating, there is help out there and various tools that help you return to a normal life. 

Try to remember that the body just doesn't find that space to calm down unless we make it a priority. Find me someone that isn't constantly on high alert. Our bodies have to pump more and more adrenaline and cortisol into our system, and triggers for a lot of wellness issues. How many of you are finding that you stay wound up and anxious longer and longer. How many of you despite working out tremendously just keep feeling worse and worse? All of this puts a lot of chronic stress on the body and mind. This is part of what drove me to energy healing and nutrition because there had to be ways to work with anxiety to move it towards reducing even in this current state of the world. It’s not about never feeling anxious again. It’s about finding and restoring balance, health, and wellbeing. I hope you join me as I challenge you over the coming the upcoming weeks before Thanksgiving to make some healthy changes, and reduce the anxious pathways. Read each post, try the suggestions and tips, and pay attention to how you feel. Share the information with your kids and let them know that grabbing bad snack choices at school can be a big part of the problem. 

Keep alert to signs that your anxiety is becoming adrenal fatigue, depression, and even leaky gut. It's complicated, and it's something we all have to become aware of in order to heal and move forward. There is a lot more related to this... serotonin and gut for example. Let's work through some of it, and find some gratitude to embrace together.



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