Most people experience some kind of stress on a daily basis. Whether it is stressing about a looming work project deadline, stubbing a toe or rushing around to get out the door each morning, our bodies have an automatic response known as the “fight or flight” reaction.
The “fight or flight” reaction is our body’s way of protecting us from dying. Yes, that’s right, your body thinks that the pain from stubbing a toe could lead to death. Our adrenal glands kick into gear and secrete increased levels of the hormone cortisol to increase blood flow to the brain, arms, legs, heart and lungs.
This innate protective system was extremely efficient back when humans were actually running from or fighting lions. Fortunately, in current times, we are rarely in those types of dire situations. However, our bodies continue to translate even the smallest stressors into life or death scenarios, so our adrenal glands are reacting all day long.
If we continue to experience recurrent small, chronic or traumatic stressors without rest, the body begins to show the effects. A very common effect from over-active adrenal glands is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). IBS can cause diarrhea, constipation, gas, bloating and pain.
Remember how cortisol activates the brain and heart? Well, it shuts down the gut. We certainly don’t need to be digesting food or getting ready to have a bowel movement while running from a lion! Digestive enzymes decrease, motility of the intestines stop and everything stays put while the body deals with the current stressor.
The good news is that there are many ways to help combat stress and help the gut function normally again.
Ways to Help Combat Stress + Help the Gut Function Normally Again
-Rest, rest, rest
-Balance blood sugars by eating regularly and adding protein rich foods
-Eat a whole foods diet and decrease sugar intake
-Say no to over scheduling
-Take supplements to support adrenal and digestive function
Additionally, a saliva adrenal hormone test can help give you and your practitioner further information as to how the adrenals are functioning, and aid in the direction of treatment.
Dr. Whittington is a naturopathic doctor and founder of Spring Skincare. Her practice focuses on hormone balancing, skin problems, digestive issues and stress-related conditions such as fatigue and mood swings. By helping patients find and treat the cause of a disease or symptom, Dr. Whittington helps patients attain and maintain optimal and vibrant health.
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