In addition to increased perception of pain and increased cortisol from adrenal glands, which leads to excess fat on the belly, hips, and thighs, exposure to long-term stress may lead to more serious health challenges.
Chronic exposure to stress may lead to the development of a variety of gastrointestinal diseases such as gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD, peptic ulcers, IBS, inflammatory bowel disease or IBD, and in some cases food allergies. Chronic stress may also play a role in the development of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) and leaky gut syndrome.
Inside Out: Skin
Research suggests that gut health may be a key factor in the development of acne. Stress-induced alterations to the balance of microbial flora could increase the likelihood of intestinal permeability, which sets the stage for systemic and local skin inflammation. When gut integrity is compromised, an increase in circulation of endotoxins derived from microbes can manifest as skin eruptions such as acne and rosacea. Having a healthy balance of gut flora can modulate the hypersensitivity and leaky gut permeability that comes from chronic exposure to stress.
Consuming probiotic-rich foods, taking probiotic supplements, and colon hydrotherapy sessions have shown to help cleanse the colon, calm intestinal inflammation, and populate the digestive tract with healthy intestinal flora. Probiotic-dense foods include yogurt, kefir, kombucha or fermented tea, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso soup, and even some high quality dark chocolate. When purchasing a probiotic supplement, look for a broad spectrum – multiple strains of microflora, and a high culture count per capsule or serving. At least 8 strains with a minimum of 10 billion cultures per serving makes a good probiotic supplement.
What else can you do?
In addition to the steps discussed in the August newsletter, and the diet, probiotics and colon hydrotherapy mentioned above, here are a few more things to consider:
- Laugh More: A good, hardy, gut-wrenching laugh releases endorphins - the body's natural painkillers - producing a sense of well-being and an overall happy feeling.
- Play More: Some think play is for kids, but research shows that play may be the very thing that keeps you young and healthy. It builds optimism and boosts the immune system, and fosters a sense of community.
- Connect More: As life grows more complex, maintaining close friendships can become challenging. That's when we need them most. Simply sharing the events of your day can relieve low-level stress before it builds and begins to affect your health. Make the effort to keep up healthy friendships. It's worth it. A 10-minute phone call, filled with laughter and plans to play, may do more good than you know.