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STRESS AND GUT HEALTH

STRESS AND GUT HEALTH

Are you stressed?  Are you not sleeping well? Are you over or under-exercising? Are you actively working to reduce stress daily?

I get it, sometimes we all can’t avoid stress. It’s part of our lives whatever that may look like. However, we all have the same responsibility when it comes to our body and that is to take good care of it.  Looking at your stressors and working towards reducing them is a good way to start.

Stress hugely affects our health. Little sleep, over or under-exercising, working too much all contribute to an unhealthy gut, the centre of our health. Without addressing some of these daily stressors we can’t build a robust gut.  

If you are often feeling anxious or overwhelmed, feeling like you are in a constant fight or flight mode you will be releasing the main stress hormone, cortisol at a high rate. Cortisol is “catabolic”, meaning it breaks things down. And this also includes the lining of your gut. This can leave you vulnerable to infections and reduce your immune function. Stress can also reduce the production of stomach acid, and this can lead to digestive issues and nutrient deficiencies.

The areas we need to address are sleep, body movement, mental state, and workload.

Sleep is imperative to your health. Aim for 7-8 hours of good quality sleep per night. Keeping your phone and TV’s out of the bedroom especially if you are struggling with sleep as both are incredibly stimulating and not sleep inducing.

I personally love to drink an herbal calming tea before bed and read books. Other recommendations are writing a journal, some light movement like yoga or even meditation, a hot shower followed by a hot cuppa of cacao with some milk can also do wonders! If you need to get something of your chest, talk to a friend or your partner so you don’t go to bed too worried.

Let’s look at exercise. Strenuous exercise at night or right before bed can again shoot up your cortisol levels which you don’t want at this time of the day.

For a lot of women especially coming from either a depleted state, postpartum or dealing with any kind of health issues I would recommend light exercises such as Yoga or Pilates. The body doesn’t need more stressing out in a stressed state. Yes, exercise is a stressor to the body. So we want to use it correctly. In a well nourished place more strenuous exercise can be great, but this depends on every individual and their state of health. Simply going for a walk and increasing the intensity with some weights can also be a good start. Bangles are fantastic for this. Being in nature doesn’t just calm your nervous system it also helps to boost your immune system, lift your mood, reduce blood pressure, heart rate and muscle tension!

Someone’s mental state can be a huge barrier in achieving health goals. Whether you are suffering from anxiety, depression or general overwhelm, without addressing your challenges in this area we can’t actively reduce stress and avoid the above explained negative health effects.  

Another important factor that is too often overlooked is the high magnesium burn rate under stress. Your magnesium burn rate escalates with every additional stressor. Given that magnesium is responsible for over 3000 enzymatic reactions in the body, it’s an important mineral! These enzymes requiring magnesium are responsible for a variety of tasks such as the creation of ATP (body’s energy), hormone balance, glucose management, detoxification and more!

However important to note, magnesium doesn’t equal magnesium and doesn’t regulate itself in the body. Running out to grab some cheap version of magnesium from the health store without understanding the different forms of magnesium or the co-factors required for the body to regulate magnesium can do more harm than good.

Some people can’t tolerate taking oral magnesium. This can often be due to their sodium and potassium levels being too low. Sodium and potassium act as ‘door openers’ to the cells to allow magnesium in. Without adequate levels of both one can feel nauseous along with many other side effects.

In today’s culture where being ‘busy’ is being glorified it’s becoming more and more difficult to not join the workaholic club and being equally as ‘cool’ as everybody else. Busy isn’t the same as productive. If you are constantly being busy without truly achieving much it might be time to look at how to prioritize your daily tasks and create more balance.

Always remember, slow and steady wins the race. Feeling overwhelmed? Break things down and start with one task at a time rather than all of them. Cut your ‘to-do’ list in half or even further down, sometimes less is truly more.

Creating new habits starts with building on one newly created and mastered habit. Not all of them at the same time!

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