No Guts, No Glory
These days the importance of gut health has really come to light. We know now that your gut does way more than just digest food (which in and of itself is a miracle!). Beyond turning your broccoli into human cells, your gut helps balance hormones, produce essential enzymes, house 70% of your immune system, create serotonin and dopamine (both neurotransmitters for your brain), and so much more. But these days more and more people are coming into our office with gut related issues. Gas, bloating, and pain are becoming all too common, but it’s also the secondary issues that are concerning. Gut issues lead to things like infertility, hormone disruption, behavior issues (in both kids and adults), autoimmune disease, heart disease, diabetes, cancer… the list goes on forever. So it behooves us to look at the cause of gut issues. Luckily it all comes down to one problem: stress.
We all know stress is no good. If you polled 100 people, all 100 would agree that they don’t want stress in their life. But stress is a much bigger problem than we give it credit for. One of the issues with stress is that there are 3 different types.
Emotional Stress – Chemical Stress – Neurological Stress
The one we are most familiar with is Emotional Stress. This is the one that occurs when the bills are due and the bank account is low. Or the school calls and your child is in trouble again (my mom had to deal with this one a lot). Maybe there’s conflict in your relationships, or your boss is a jerk. Maybe it’s as simple as the traffic on your commute. Emotional stress is abundant in our world.
The problem with emotional stress is what it does to our health. You see God knew we would deal with stress in our lives, so he gave us a built in response to it. He designed our autonomic nervous system with two parts. The sympathetic and the parasympathetic. Sympathetic is the fight or flight response and parasympathetic is the rest, digest and heal response. You can only be in one or the other, never in both. The way it was designed, when we are out in the field tending our sheep and a lion comes immediately our sympathetics turn on and we go into fight or flight mode. In fight or flight, our blood flow is directed away from our brain and organs to sent to our muscles, our heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing all increase, our digestion, reproductive system, and immune system all turn OFF. This is great because it gives us the ability to run (flight) or turn and face the lion (fight like David from the Old Testament). Then once we have saved our sheep, the stressor is gone, and we switch back to rest, digest, and heal mode. Blood is sent back to the vital organs, blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing return to normal. We start to DIGEST and heal again. A perfect design.
The problem is that our stressors are no longer lions. Like I said before, our world is one big bucket of stress! Studies show that even having your cell phone near you causes stress. We eagerly tap it just to see if we missed a notification. On average, if you can see your phone you think about it every 7 seconds. In our stressed out world, we get stuck in fight or flight mode. Heart rate and blood pressure stay up while immune function, reproduction, and DIGESTION stay down.
One of the easiest ways to see this is in children. It might not seem like it, but I am an introvert at heart and always have been. I was the little boy that hid behind my mom as much as she would let me. Talking to people was one of my biggest fears growing up. I remember every Sunday on the ride to church how stressed out I would get at the notion of all the people I’d encounter. But the worst part was the tummy aches. My stress would send my stomach into a fit. It makes sense looking back. I was deep into fight or flight because of my stress.
Finding ways to manage your emotional stress is ESSENTIAL to your gut health. That’s why Mindset is one of the 5 Essentials of Health. Your thoughts control your health via the autonomic nervous system. When your emotional stress is stuck “on” your gut cannot break down food. It can’t utilize that 70% of your immune system. It can’t help to balance your hormones or produce the essential neurotransmitters for your brain.
Of the 3 types of stress, Emotional Stress is likely the most difficult to handle as many things are outside of our control. But the reality is that if it’s not in your control there is no reason to stress over it. Stop worrying over the things you can’t do anything about. You can’t control what others think or say about you. You can’t force the traffic to clear. As much as you’d like to, you can’t make your child do what you want them to. Minimize your emotional stress by only worrying about the things that you have control over and that way you will spend the majority of your life resting, digesting, and healing.
On August 16th here at NGFC we are taking a deep dive into Gut Health. We will look at Emotional, Chemical, and Neurological Stress, what they are, and most importantly what to do about it to make sure you and your family are living the best life possible! This is an event I highly recommend bringing a friend to. Far too many people unnecessarily struggle with gut issues. Help your friends by bringing them! See you there!
In Health and Faith,