Stress is a normal part of life, but when it becomes chronic, it can have a negative impact on your overall health and well-being. It plays a huge role in how well (or not so well) your digestive system functions.
Stress can be physical, emotional, or even happen on a chemical level inside your body.
Today, we’ll explore the link between stress and digestion, and how to better manage this gut-brain connection and improve your overall health.
The gut and the brain are closely connected. In fact, the gut is sometimes referred to as the “second brain”.
When we experience stress, our bodies release excess hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones can have a negative impact on the gut, causing a stress response that leads to stomach pain, bloating, constipation or diarrhea.
Chronic stress can also lead to the overgrowth of harmful bacteria in the gut. This can contribute to conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and drive chronic health conditions like autoimmunity.
By taking steps to reduce stress levels – such as meditation, exercise, getting enough restful sleep, laughing with friends – you can promote good bacteria growth and optimize your gut health, in addition to reducing stress-related physical symptoms.
5 ways to improve the gut brain connection
Nutrient deficiencies in vitamins and minerals like Vitamin D, zinc and magnesium, can contribute to gut-brain imbalances. Blood work and other tests can help you identify nutrient deficiencies so you can target them with food and supplements as needed.
Eat a diet with sufficient fiber (using fruits and vegetables) to feed good healthy bacteria, and choose quality animal protein to help promote healthy digestion. Avoiding processed foods and added sugars can also help to reduce inflammation in the gut.
Address food sensitivities:
Food sensitivities can contribute to gut-brain imbalances. They can cause low energy, brain fog, and even disrupt your sleep. Eliminating the top inflammatory foods like grains (including corn), conventional dairy, soy, alcohol, and processed seed oils are beneficial for improving symptoms.
There are also specialized food sensitivity tests that can help identify foods that may not be pinpointed during an elimination diet. If you need support with testing, you can connect with me here to discuss those options further.
Toxins such as heavy metals, pesticides, and food additives can contribute to gut-brain imbalances. The liver is a big player in detox and has about 200 functions in the body. Using detox as a part of a healthy lifestyle supports the body so it can efficiently release toxins.
Support the gut barrier:
A healthy gut barrier (or intestinal lining) is crucial for maintaining a healthy gut-brain connection. Probiotics, prebiotics, and specific amino acids can support the gut barrier by reducing inflammation.
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that live in the gut and help to balance the microbiome. Prebiotics are beneficial food for the bacteria. Studies have shown that taking probiotics/prebiotics can help reduce the symptoms of IBS and other digestive disorders.
Identify and address underlying gut infections or imbalances:
Specialized functional medicine testing can be used to identify underlying gut infections or imbalances, such as bacterial overgrowth or low levels of beneficial bacteria. Once identified, these issues can be addressed through targeted approaches such as herbal or antimicrobial therapies.
In addition to internal physical stress, practicing stress-reducing techniques such as yoga, meditation, and deep breathing can also help to reduce the negative impact of stress on the gut.
Stress (physical, emotional, chemical) can have a significant impact on our digestion and gut health. By understanding the gut-brain connection and taking steps to support the gut through diet, probiotics, and stress-reduction techniques, we can help to reduce the negative impact of stress on our bodies and improve our overall well-being.
Creating a healthy gut microbiome is essential for overall well-being. Go With Your Gut is a comprehensive program that aims to improve health at a cellular level, with the potential to eliminate symptoms that have been present for years.
This program is for you if you’re looking for a long-term solution so you can finally heal.
Have you tried taking probiotics and other supplements, hoping they would get rid of symptoms related to an unhealthy gut?
I used to believe I could take probiotics and my gut would heal. After years of trying every probiotic under the sun, loading up on fermented foods, and feeding them good resistant starches like cassava, artichoke, green bananas, and the like, I ended up a bloated mess. And I still had symptoms related to my unhealthy gut.
Recent studies reveal the longstanding connection between our microbiome, mood, and stress hormone levels, and how they affect one another. Probiotics can actually be super helpful when we do things right.
Diversity is essential for both our immune system and microbiome if we want to experience good health. Studies show that a lack of diversity in the gut microbiome can result from poor dietary and lifestyle choices, toxins, stress, and overuse of antibiotics. Spending time in nature, gardening, and regularly consuming different strains of beneficial bacteria can boost biodiversity and protect against pathogens, as well as support important metabolic processes such as cellular energy production.
How Stress Impacts Digestion
The relationship between mood and the microbiome is linked through the vagus nerve, which plays a role in regulating feelings of calm and relaxation, as well as controlling the involuntary muscle movements in the digestive tract.
The phrase “go with your gut” highlights this connection as the microbiome and mood are closely connected to many of the neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine, that contribute to feelings of well-being.
Since the digestive system is only one cell-layer thick, any inflammation or imbalance in bacteria can spread to the brain. This impacts mood, leading to feelings of anxiety and depression.
Stress in the body can result from emotions, physical and external stress from injury, or even internal stress from infection, hormone imbalance, weak immune health, inflammation, and many others. Stress, both short-term and long-term, can have a significant impact on the microbiome by releasing stress hormones like cortisol. This can cause inflammation and inflammatory cytokines in the body, which may affect the way food is digested and the diversity of the microbiome.
Are Probiotics Helpful?
Probiotics have become increasingly popular and are now widely available. It’s important to consider the different strains of probiotics in order to ensure a diverse range of species.
One word of caution: Probiotics are typically beneficial, but in the case of SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth), they can cause bloating or make digestive symptoms worse.
Soil-based probiotics are gaining recognition as research suggests that our microbiome may be lacking in organisms that we would normally get from spending time in nature. That gives us more reason to spend time outdoors and grow our own food. These soil based probiotics:
Can survive harsh stomach acid and support the removal of pathogens and maintain a healthy diversity in our microbiome.
Support the immune system by increasing the production of antibodies and white blood cells.
Have a positive effect on mental health and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.
You can find one of my favorite spore based probiotics HERE.
Lactobacillus Acidophilus is a beneficial probiotic strain that can help remove harmful pathogens from the body.
Commonly found in fermented products like kefir, yogurt, and sauerkraut.
Helps to improve symptoms of digestive conditions such as diarrhea, constipation, and lactose intolerance.
Helps prevent urinary tract and vaginal infections.
Reduces LDL cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood.
Bifidobacterium is the most abundant beneficial bacteria in the colon. However, their population naturally declines as we age.
Supports the healing of intestinal permeability or leaky gut by strengthening the mucosal lining, and contributes to lasting digestive health.
Help to support the immune system by increasing the production of antibodies and white blood cells.
Has anti-inflammatory effects, which may be beneficial for conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and eczema.
Helps to reduce weight gain and improve weight loss.
A multi strain probiotic like ProbioMed 50 is helpful for getting a good balance of multiple strains of lactobacillus and bifidobacterium.
Saccharomyces Boulardii is a specific species of probiotic that has been found to be beneficial in inhibiting the growth of bacteria, yeast, and parasites.
Has anti-toxin effects and has been found to be supportive against Clostridium difficile.
Is a non-pathogenic yeast that has been used in the treatment of diarrheal infections and disease, and also influences inflammatory signaling pathways.
Helpful when taking antibiotics if prone to yeast infections.
Probiotics can be super beneficial for some, but if you’ve tried working on your diet and taking supplements on your own with little to no results, you may need to take a deeper dive into what’s going on inside.
Creating a healthy gut microbiome is essential for overall well-being. Go With Your Gut is a comprehensive program that aims to improve health at a cellular level, potentially eliminating symptoms that have been present for years.
The important steps in this program are
Cellular cleanse – to reduce toxins and heavy metals
Fertilize and heal the gut to establish a healthy internal environment.
Reprogram the microbiome and retrain the immune system to work for you instead of against you
It is essential for those with digestive issues like IBS, Crohn’s, Colitis, and Autoimmune conditions like Hashimotos and Lupus, as well as those with chronic skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis to improve the health of the gut. Healing your gut is the best way to jumpstart natural hormone balance. This program is also beneficial for those who are told their lab tests are normal, yet know something is off.
Once gut health is achieved, the occasional use of probiotics can support biodiversity. It is important to understand the crucial role the microbiome plays in our health and to continuously work towards maintaining a healthy internal environment.
This program is for you if you’re looking for a long-term solution so you can finally heal.
It’s common to feel digestive discomfort (bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation, nausea) or fatigue after eating, but it should not be the norm.
The gut allows nutrients to pass into the body and provides a barrier against harmful organisms. When this happens correctly, you feel energized and refreshed after meals.
If that’s not the case for you, you may benefit from a few simple guidelines known to improve digestion and ease symptoms like abdominal pain and swelling, mental fog, intestinal gas, and fatigue.
These are not rules, in that you have to follow them for the rest of your life, but becoming aware of how you eat certain foods together to improve digestion can help, especially if you suffer from digestive disorders like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Combining foods to improve digestion works because our food (carbs, fats, and proteins) digests at different speeds and requires different digestive enzymes to break it down. You can create a little war inside if you eat foods that have different requirements for digestion and absorption… especially if you have underlying digestive problems added to the mix.
Food combining guidelines
Leafy greens and non-starchy vegetables contain their own digestive enzymes and can be paired with any meal.
Citrus fruits, spices, and herbs are neutral foods and can be paired with any foods. Many of them aid in digestion. Use lemon, grapefruit, apple cider vinegar, ginger, garlic, oregano, basil, cilantro, and other healing herbs to add flavor and improve the health of your digestive system.
Eat fruit away from starchy carbs
Fruit, grains, and other carbohydrates (like potatoes and legumes) have a similar digestive rate, so they will compete with one another and lead to fermentation in the gut, which causes gas and bloating. The grain or starch will win this battle and the fruit will be left in the gut to putrefy and ferment while it waits its turn to be digested.
Instead, try fruit with nuts, or eat it alone. Its simple sugars will digest very rapidly. It’s best to eat it about 30 minutes to 1 hour before or after meals.
Some people also do well with fruit smoothies since the fruit is already broken down and it can be easily digested along with chia seeds, avocado, greens, and plant based proteins. Chewing your smoothies will also help you release the digestive juices necessary to digest with ease.
Eat melon alone because it has a quick fermentation process and can cause bloating when eaten with any other food.
Pair protein with non-starchy vegetables
Protein needs an acidic environment and plenty of digestive enzymes to break down and digest. It can be paired with cabbage, broccoli, greens, peppers, or other non-starchy vegetables because they have their own digestive enzymes.
Many people can digest protein well with starch. A lot of this will depend on the health of your digestive system, blood sugar imbalances, and your metabolic type. People with thyroid or adrenal disorders may need more carbohydrates with protein to help support energy.
When eating protein with a carbohydrate-rich meal, pay attention to whether or not your stomach feels heavy or you feel foggy and tired after meals. This is a sign that you had too much starch with your protein.
Pair starch with healthy fats and vegetables
Grains, potatoes, plantains, and legumes play nice together at mealtime and all need an alkaline environment for digestion. They also pair well with non-starchy vegetables.
Limit liquids during meals
Digestive enzymes are formed in the mouth when we chew our food. Drinking water or any other beverage with your meals can dilute these digestive enzymes and slow digestion. Drink water outside of meals and sip room temperature water with your meals. You can add a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar before meals and drink it about 30 minutes before you eat to improve digestion.
What if you still have digestive upset after meals?
Digestive upset can still happen if we overeat or if we don’t combine foods appropriately. It’s natural to want to reach for an over-the-counter remedy to give you a little relief.
Here’s a few more things you can try:
Raw apple cider vinegar helps rebalance the pH in your gut to help you digest better. Try 1-3 teaspoons in 4 oz of water.
Digestive enzymes before meals are beneficial if you know you have consistent issues. You may also try 2 capsules after meals that cause bloating.
Ginger tea before or after a meal can help calm nausea and bloating and relieve constipation
If you have indigestion after a meal, you can add a pinch of baking soda to about 4 oz of warm water to neutralize the acid.
Want to learn more about digestive health?
If you’re struggling with food sensitivities, low energy, thyroid disease, autoimmune conditions, or weight gain, it could all be related to poor gut health and particularly leaky gut.
Functional lab tests and a good professional assessment can be life-giving if you have chronic digestive issues or health problems.
Did you know panda’s poop an average of 40 times per day?
They have to eat a lot of fiber to get enough nutrients to sustain their health.
It’s interesting how these animals have the natural instinct to eat enough to fuel their body with the right amount of nutrition to sustain life.
Unfortunately, humans lose a lot of intuition around eating because we pick up certain beliefs about food growing up and carry both the healthy and unhealthy traditions from one generation to the next.
Many times we blame genetics for a disease process when it may have more to do with our habits and environment.
Today I’ll focus on 1 nutrient because it’s one of the most common deficiencies due to our depleted soil, poor quality animals, and over-consumption of grains and processed foods filled with anti-nutrients. This mineral is Magnesium.
How can you tell if you’re deficient?
If you’re like most people, you’ve tried a lot of diets. We want to find the perfect plan that works best and gives us the results we want with a simple, easy, fun, and doable plan.
Many new fads (healthy or not) can lead to deficiencies because they’re restrictive and don’t provide enough nutrients.
Another problem is that rapid weight loss can lead to nutrient deficiencies.
The key to resolving this is to address the underlying cause.
Here are a few signs you’re deficient:
Inability to fall asleep or waking up throughout the night
Cravings for carbohydrates or processed foods
Low energy, especially in the afternoon
Headaches, anxiety, and/or depression
Inability to handle stress or feeling super stressed
Muscle spasms, soreness, or cramps
Bloating or chronic constipation
Low thyroid and low bone density
Bloating or chronic constipation
Could magnesium deficiency be deadly?
When I say the word malnourished, you likely think of those in underprivileged countries, and not your neighbor or family members who have access to plenty of food. But the sad truth is, many of the people we encounter on a daily basis are malnourished – and it results from having plenty to eat, but not enough nutrition.
A respected medical study reported that 77% of diabetics were deficient in magnesium, and at risk for deadly complications from this deficiency. Those with adequate levels have a 17% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
It is also important for the heart and regulating blood pressure. Those with the lowest levels of magnesium also have the highest risk of dying from heart attack.
There’s a difference in addressing your labs in a traditional way versus exploring them from a holistic standpoint and addressing them in a way that offers insight into the cause of your health issues. When we address the underlying cause of these deficiencies, we can stay healthy, or maybe even experience it for the first time in a long time.
How can you support magnesium deficiencies?
If you’d like to take the first step in looking at your labs from a whole body perspective with a functional analysis, you can order a set of labs here and I’ll do a full analysis and interpretation for you. This advanced blood panel is designed to give you insight into your overall health. It comes with a single lab interpretation session so we can discuss next steps for addressing the underlying cause of your health concerns.
(This is not available if you life in NY, NJ, or Rhode Island)
Consume magnesium rich foods found in nuts and seeds like pumpkin seeds, almonds, and cashews.
Avoid processed foods as much as possible since they are known to prevent the body from absorbing nutrients as it should.
If you find you’re deficient, use a quality brand of magnesium for supplementation. Most people can benefit from a little bit, but all sources are not created equal.
If you’re tired of trying to figure out your health on your own and are ready for a step by step plan so you can learn to tune in to your body and give it what it needs to get healthy and stay that way once and for all, complete this short application and we’ll schedule some time to see if one of the “Go With Your Gut” program options are right for you.
You’ve likely heard how inflammation can negatively affect your health, but I bet you haven’t really thought about the role it’s playing in your current health situation.
It’s sometimes referred to as a silent killer, and has a bad reputation, but inflammation is not necessarily always a bad thing. It naturally occurs in response to injury and is helpful when you get hurt or even if you over-exercise. It’s a healing response to injury that protects and heals.
The big problem is chronic inflammation that comes as a result of the amount of stress your physical body is under on a daily basis. Under the wrong conditions, your body has a difficult time healing and can lead to symptoms caused by this inflammation like:
While inflammation does play a major role in the development of chronic diseases, the great news is, we can control chronic inflammation through lifestyle and daily behaviors.
A few simple ways to naturally reduce inflammation:
1. Focus on whole food nutrition
Toss out the processed and packaged foods that are filled with sugar and non-food ingredients. Gluten, dairy, sugar, and hydrogenated oils are 4 of the most inflammatory foods. Replace these with healthier alternatives anytime it’s possible to begin naturally reduce inflammation in your body.
Opt for more nutrient dense foods like pasture-raised meats, wild-caught fish, organic fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. Snack on fruit and vegetables and fill your plate with lots of color.
Great anti-inflammatory food sources that naturally contain antioxidants include oranges, red bell peppers, kiwi, avocados, sunflower seeds, tuna, halibut, grass-fed beef, blueberries, blackberries, and acai. Sulforaphane rich foods are also an excellent source and include vegetables such as broccoli, broccoli sprouts, and foods in the cabbage family.
2. Add herbs and spices to your meals
Spices not only add flavor, but they have great healing properties. Once you remove the inflammatory foods, you can add antioxidants to help protect your body from cellular damage.
Using antioxidants to clean up internal damage can help boost your cellular health and that means you have more energy, you feel stronger in your body, you improve your mood, and your brain works better.
This can be as simple as adding antioxidant rich spices into your food. Those are things like turmeric, cinnamon, cloves, cacao, and oregano.
3. Make sleep a priority
Aim for a 10 p.m. bedtime. Your body runs on a circadian rhythm, which is around the sun. You release the most melatonin starting around 10 p.m. And your liver and organ repair starts shortly after.
Deep sleep is responsible for making sure you feel fully rested when you wake up, and it occurs early in the evening.
REM sleep makes up the last 4 hours and it’s when your body focuses on the mental and emotional aspects of healing.
A solid bedtime routine will help set you up for successful sleep. Wind down by using softer lights or lamps instead of bright overhead lighting. This will mimic the natural going down of the sun. Turn off your technology and devices 1-2 hours before bedtime since artificial light can disrupt your sleep.
Take a few moments before bed to process your day and take note of a few things you’re grateful for so you can fall asleep in a more joyful state.
If tomorrow’s to-do list is already running through your mind, keep a notepad beside your bed to jot it down and let it go. It will be there tomorrow when you rise.
4. Spend time outside and move your body
Outdoor sunlight and fresh air helps you reset your circadian rhythm and helps you soak up vitamin D. Weather permitting, find an outdoor hobby you enjoy. You could go hiking, walking, swimming, kayaking. When weather is not permitting, bring nature indoors by using plants and stretch out on a yoga mat.
Nature has its own immune system and within a few hours of being outdoors, you can boost your immune systems for up to 30 days.
Nature also reduces stress, which is closely linked with reducing inflammation and the symptoms associated with it. Make outdoor activity a priority for a few hours per week to reset your mind and body.
When you pair daily movement with time outdoors, you will significantly improve your mood, reduce pain, increase energy, and reduce stress, which will greatly impact your overall health and reduce inflammation.
So before you pop another anti-inflammatory, give these a try.
If you’re looking for a straightforward approach to improving chronic conditions such as thyroid disease, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, extra body weight, or other digestive issues and hormone imbalances, research shows that working to naturally reduce inflammation in the body is a great way to improve the quality of your life and health.
If you’re looking for a personalized plan to address your overall health in a more natural way, you can check out the details of my services here.