In Part 1 of this post series ‘ALERT: An Unsuspecting Offender That Causes Leaky Gut’ I defined what causes Intestinal Permeability and revealed that stress is actually a large component of causing a Leaky Gut. As a quick refresher, let’s review how this happens.
When the body perceives stress, it requires extra energy to ‘solve the problem’. Because your brain is directly connected to your gut via the Vagus Nerve, the gut is the first organ that the brain will borrow the extra energy from. It will notify the gut of it’s emergency and the gut will sacrifice optimal digestion to provide the extra energy the brain needs. This in turn restricts blood flow and mucus production in the digestive system.
This process works for short bursts of stress but was not designed to handle long, prolonged periods of stress. In the case of long term stress such as a highly stressful profession, grieving the loss of a loved one, or any type of a major life change, your gut health will suffer. The loss of blood flow and thinner protective layer of mucous will cause the gut walls to weaken. The tight junctions in the gut become weak leading to a Leaky Gut. (1-7)
III. How You Can Heal and Prevent This Vicious Cycle
1. Choose Low Stress Exercise
When going through a stressful period, it’s important to adjust your workout to meet your needs. It would be wise to avoid high intensity exercise such as Crossfit or Orange Theory during a period of high stress and choose a lower stress work-out such as Yoga. Even a 20 to 30 minute walk at a moderate pace would be a healthier choice for your gut health than ignoring the signs of high Cortisol and burning yourself out at the gym.
2. Change Your Thought Patterns
How you perceive the ‘stress’ in your life makes all the difference in how you handle it. It comes down to the meaning you give life circumstances and events. The key is to choose to see things as they actually are and not blow the circumstance out of proportion.
Stress often results when we focus on the things in life we can’t control. However, to help lower the stress in your own life, make a conscious effort to focus on the things you CAN control. This will leave you feeling empowered and more centered.
3. Get Good Quality Sleep
We all know that sleep is important. However, the exact number of hours you sleep is not half as important as the quality OF your sleep. You could lay in bed for 8 or 9 hours but not get the deep, restorative sleep that is necessary for detoxification, renewing energy and resetting hormones (such as the stress hormone, Cortisol).
To get good quality sleep, follow these quick, easy tips:
- Don’t eat anything past 8 pm
- Avoid caffeine after 3 pm
- Wear Blue Light Blocking Glasses in the 2 hours leading up to bedtime
- Avoid viewing Cortisol inducing movies or television such as watching the news
- Avoid having intense, stressful conversations and discussions before bed
4. Fill Your Gut With Good Bacteria
Above all, you want to support your gut health with a daily intake of probiotics. Beneficial gut flora has been shown in countless studies to heal Intestinal Permeability and restore balance to the gut. (8-9)
To restore the beneficial microbes into your gut, you need to introduce fermented foods into your daily diet. This is a critical step as it’s going to begin to reseed your gut with good gut flora. By varying your fermented foods coupled with a high quality probiotic supplement, you seed your gut with many new strains of good bacteria, building a stronger microbiota. Here is a list to go buy immediately and begin ingesting daily.
- Kefir (A1 Cow, Goat, Sheep, or Coconut) that is organic, grass fed and raw
- Yogurt (sheep, goat or A1 cow), preferably organic and grass fed
- Lacto-fermented Vegetables (not pickled)
- A High Quality Probiotic Supplement
1. Enders, Giulia. Gut: The Inside Story Of Our Body’s Most Underrated Organ. Scribe, 2015. Print. pp. 133-134
6. Saunders, P. R., et al. “Acute stressors stimulate ion secretion and increase epithelial permeability in rat intestine.” American Journal of Physiology-Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology 267.5 (1994): G794-G799.