In part one of this series, I spoke about the importance of healing the digestive system as a way to create a strong foundation for overall strength.
Part 2 will cover the link between your digestive system, hormones, and how they have an effect on your overall health and ability to grow stronger.
When your digestive system is functioning poorly, the body is placed under a hugh burden as it is unable to breakdown and absorb food properly.
This stress may lead to adrenal fatigue, low testosterone, growth hormone, and further complications to the digestive system.
Vital nutrients, which would normally aid in digestion and the development of a healthy immune system, are essentially being lost leaving you open to a wide range of illnesses and infections.
The production of HCl (stomach acid used to break down food) is also compromised leaving undigested food to literally rot in your body releasing toxins while leaving you vulnerable to fungus and parasite infections.
All of these variables place the body in a catabolic (break down) state while suppressing the growth and repair hormones. This condition will not only effect your ability to grow stronger and improve athletic performance, it will also cause a variety of health issues from chronic fatigue, skin infections, stomach ulcers to cancer.
The main cause of this “break down” state is stress.
When the body experiences any type of stress, whether it be emotional, environmental, or physical (digestive), the sympathetic nervous system becomes dominant and takes over hormonal functions.
The sympathetic nervous system, is responsible for responding to stress and keeping us out of danger. It’s typically known as a “fight or flight” response.
The body is preparing to flight for it’s life or run from danger.
Cortisol, the main stress hormone is released, placing the body on high alert and redirecting all blood activity away from your internal organs to your muscles essentially reducing all digestive processes.
If left elevated above normal levels over an extended period of time, cortisol leads to the break down of body tissue, adrenal fatigue, as well as immune and digestive dysfunction.
It’s a two edged sword.
Poor digestion leads to stress, stress leads to poor digestion!
As the sympathetic nervous system is active, the opposite parasympathetic nervous system , aka “the rest and digest” system is suppressed. The parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for the regulation of melatonin, testosterone, estrogen, growth hormones and a healthy immune response. Everything we need to repair, recover, and grow stronger.
When stressed, the body automatically believes it’s in danger and needs to save excess energy by shutting down any system it’s not currently using. During this time the only thing the body is concerned about is safety and survival.
From an evolutionary stand point, this worked extremely well as we were under intense stress for only brief periods of time (ex. running from a lion).
However, today with the high demands of life and poor nutritional choices, our bodies are constantly in a stressed out, catabolic state.
This has a direct impact on the health of our digestive system and immunity as over 80% of your immune system is in your gut!
The protective lining of the small intestine (which acts like a night club bouncer keeping all of the bad guys out of the body) diminishes as stress and cortisol rises. This leaves the body unprotected from bacteria and yeast overgrowth, pathogens, and illness.
All digestion and absorption of nutrients is also compromised, leaving vital minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants, also needed to improve immunity and strength, unable to do their jobs properly.
If growing stronger, whether it be mentally, physically, or emotionally, is a primary goal of yours, healing your digestive system and reducing stress should be of high importance!
Here are some things you can do to heal the digestive system and reduce stress:
1. Ease your daily stress.
Find your biggest stressor and devise a plan to overcome it. This can be a relationship, job, finances, etc. Take time to slow down. Go for walks and focus on deep breathing in order to calm the body.
2. Sleep 7-9 hours a night.
Catching up on sleep activates the parasympathetic nervous system which engages the healing and repair hormones.
4. Stick with REAL, WHOLE foods.
These foods help to nourish and heal the body. Raw, fresh greens are an excellent source of anti oxidants which are needed to heal the damage caused by stress and poor nutrition.
5. Limit sugar, grains and processed carbohydrates.
Known to weaken the immune system and feed unwanted parasites and fungus.
About the author
Eric graduated from both the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and the CHEK Institute.
He specializes in stress management, nutrition and functional medicine.
His Health Coaching practice is highly client centered and takes in the needs of the WHOLE individual to help heal their mind, body, and soul.
Eric is also an elementary school music teacher who has been known to spontaneously bust out in the moonwalk with his students and unapologetically owns every Christina Aguilera album!