Excessive stress appears to negatively affect virtually every part of your body. Stress has been shown to cause gut damage, decrease gut immunity, suppressed stomach acid secretion and delay wound healing. None of these are particularly problematic if the stress is short- term. Long term stress does create a perfect storm for gut problems.
This is a real life story and a prime example of the stress-gut connection:
Sue is in her early thirties and has been living a high-stressed lifestyle for years. She is studying part-time for her masters degree, got married, and has to commute to work everyday. Sue is unwilling to give up her six-day- a- week exercise routine but finds it hard to make time for exercise after work. She decides to sleep less to fit it in. Sue doesn’t realise it but her body is now under too much stress. Soon, she starts to notice she isn’t sleeping well, tossing and turning all the time. She is tired during the day and notices her coffee consumption increases. She starts to crave sugary foods. A few months later, Sue starts to feel bloated all the time and notices she is not going to the bathroom everyday. She notices that some foods make her feel tired and give her brain fog. She decides to clean up her diet and start taking a probiotic. This helps, but she still doesn’t feel anywhere close to how she used too.
What is happening internally to Sue? First, the long term stress causes Sue’s stomach to release less acid. The highly acidic environment in the stomach doesn’t allow bacteria to grow in the small intestine. Because Sue has less acid, more bacteria are able to grow. The stress impairs the motility of her small intestine which worsens the bacterial overgrowth and weakens the immune system. Sue most probably has leaky gut and SIBO. The SIBO is causing constipation and bloating. The leaky gut is causing fatigue and brain fog. Her overtraining is causing burnout/ adrenal fatigue which is causing her to have insomnia, fatigue and cravings. Sue then tries some adrenal supplements to fix the adrenal fatigue. She feels better for a while but then feels lousy a few months later. This is because Sue is not treating the problem; she is treating a symptom- the problem is not her adrenal hormones; her adrenal hormone imbalances are a symptom of a actual problem. What Sue needs to do is adjust her lifestyle so she is not in a chronic stress response. This would entail exercising a couple of days less and making sleep a priority. Sue needs proper diagnosis and treatment of SIBO- which will take even more stress off her system
Stress can have many forms from relationship stress, financial, lack of sleep. There is one type of stress that is often overlooked- Digestive stress! Fixing the gut initially can provide relief to all the other adrenal fatigue symptoms such as insomnia, fatigue, depression, etc because it takes away the digestive stress. When your gut is under a lot of stress then you can easily cause inflammation, autoimmunity and nutrient malabsorption.
“Healthy Gut, Healthy You, Dr Michael Ruscio”