Gut Health, Digestion and Stress

Over the last 10 years or so there has been a lot of research done on our microbiome and its impacts on chronic disease and obesity. Our microbiome is the accumulation of little microbes in our stomach, gut lining, mouth… that support our digestion and immune system and preventing infection. It is the gateway to optimal health. A damaged gut, however, can can lead to anything from autoimmune disease to heart disease and everything in between.

Joshua 8:1 – Then the Lord said to Joshua, ‘Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. 

There are a lot of different things that impact the health of our gut biome, for example the way were were born (vaginal or c-section) and the foods we eat. But one that is a huge culprit in many of our lives is the level of stress, anxiety and worry we carry around every day.

When we experience any level our stress our body responds by turning on our adrenal glads to cope. This is a wonderful design by God, because when we are being chased by a bear we need our adrenal glands aka our adrenaline to help us flee. It’s called our fight or flight response. In a millisecond our body responds to stress with a flood of hormones, including cortisol, which affects both your digestive system and your immune system. But, we’re not running from a bear every day, so…

Joshua 10:25 – Joshua said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Be strong and courageous.

What Happens When we have High Stress all day every day

There are a few different things that happen when we live in a constant state of stress that impacts our gut health, waistline and our ability to fight off diseases. This long-term thought pattern of anxiety and stress makes our bodies dull to the on and off signals from our hypothalamus that everything is ok and it can begin to drop the levels of hormones being released. The dullness of this signal causes our bodies to not turn off that constant flood of fight or flight hormones.

This constant flow of hormones because your body doesn’t turn off ends up damaging your gut lining, keeps your digestive system turned off (because it can’t run from a bear and digest your food at the same time), damages your bodies ability to recognize germs that invade and we get sick: autoimmune disease, heart disease, chronic inflammation… On top of that your sleep, mood and energy levels are largely impacted and this cycle of stress response becomes a constant downward spiral.

Psalm 29:11 – The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace. 

Scripture is the best source of anything wellness and life related from how to raise our kids and treat others to how to avoid autoimmune disease, heart issues and any other illness that could come our way. God created our bodies to fight off disease, digest our food, have a healthy microbiome, and to fight or flee at the right moment. We were created perfectly. However, when we disobey (ie: it says do not fear 365 in scriptures – enough for a reminder every single day) our bodies stop working in the way they were created to.

I’m pretty sure when God says to not be fearful, anxious or worried there is a pretty good reason for it.

Stress and your waistline

Have you ever beat yourself up for what you’ve eaten or drank? Have you ever eaten because you’re stressed? I use to, a lot! I believed I had control over my body that much that I could manipulate my weight based on my obsession with the food that I’d eat.

Walk with me on this journey in stress and food: That cake looks so good so you decide “I’ll have just one bite”, next thing you know you’ve eaten a whole slice plus took some extra frosting for good measure. Seconds later you’re feeling full and uncomfortable so you start to beat yourself up wishing you never would have eaten it. Your body responds to your stress by turning on your fight or flight hormones, blood flow and function leaves your stomach (aka stops digesting) and goes to your muscles so it can flee/fight. The food you ate isn’t being filtered or processed properly because your body isn’t concerned about the food in your stomach it’s more concerned about finding the ‘bear’ and running. So that food that you’re upset about ends up not being used so it turns into fat storage. {hand to forehead moment, right?!} This same pattern works when we are stressed and eat to feel better (instead of praying and casting all our worries and cares on God).

Not only do we store our food as fat when we’re stressed, but, because we don’t use the hormones in our bodies to flee, we also become inflamed (double whammy). Our bodies naturally respond to injuries with inflammation, so when it realized there isn’t a bear to flee from, it assumes that there is something else wrong and so we swell up – everywhere. Stress is horrible, right!?!?!

What to do

The first step is to become aware of your mind-body connection, the things we think directly impact our body, and the next is to find ways to reduce stress in your life.

Our minds are the parts of us that never stop, it’s always thinking, planning, worrying… But when we focus and do the work of renewing our mind and in trusting that God is in control and not us, we can begin to find the peace that is already within us, we’ve just become dull to it.

Earlier I mentioned that our body becomes dull to the off switch to our adrenal glads because we’re constantly stressed, the same is true when it comes to our relationship with God. When we repeatedly ignore or push off the Holy Spirit’s cues within us to be at peace and to trust, we quiet him so much, become dull to him and end up believe that the constant go-go and anxiety is the way life is suppose to be, but that’s not truth.

I’ve spent years being a doer, not a doer of the word like we’re called to be, but a doer, a people-pleaser, a belief that I’m loved based on what I do and when I fall short I’m no longer loved. In the last few months, I’ve finally begun to live life as a be-er. We’re called to be – be kind, be humble, be gentle, BE IN THE PRESENCE OF OUR HEAVENLY FATHER. The thing is I was ‘trying’ to do kindness, do humility, do gentle and I was epically failing every day. I was trying to do it with my own will and power – seriously, none of us have that kind of control on our own. 😉

When we begin to be, and stop letting anxiety run our lives, we get all if not more done and we get it done while being instep with the Holy Spirit and His guidance becomes more clear and we are filled with His peace. Our bodies begin to heal, our energy comes back, our worry goes away…

You want to heal your body? It starts with your relationship with God, the renewing of your thoughts and then you’re body will begin to function like God originally designed it to.

Its all about relationship!

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