A while back we took a dive into the Autonomic Nervous System and how it interacts with the Enteric Nervous System. If you missed it go back and check it out, the science lays the foundation for this email as well! In this email we’ll have a look at how what you put into the gut can interact with your nervous system.
Let’s start by talking about cortisol; the stress hormone. This hormone is released by the adrenal to help people deal with stress and regulate blood sugar levels. However, too much cortisol has some serious negative side effects. While cortisol can help in a stressful situation, too much cortisol will cause a slew of negative health issues. Sometimes this is referred to as cushing syndrome or hypercortisolism. According to the Mayo clinic, “…the hallmark signs of Cushing syndrome — a fatty hump between your shoulders, a rounded face, and pink or purple stretch marks on your skin….high blood pressure, bone loss and, on occasion, type 2 diabetes.”
Do not eat in front of your computer or TV and distract your brain while chowing down. Do not emotionally eat bags of chips or pints of Cherry Garcia. Here’s why:
Sugar –The same hormone that helps maintain stress, maintains blood sugar levels: cortisol. Therefore, when we spike our blood sugar levels, we also spike our cortisol production.
If that isn’t bad enough, it gets worse- Cortisol is released by the adrenal gland. Ingesting too much sugar or spending too much time in the Sympathetic Nervous System (“fight or flight” refer to the last email) will lead to adrenal fatigue. Adrenal fatigue will materialize as a whole list of other negative issues. So, don’t eat sugar because you’re stressed…in fact you may be stressed because you’re eating sugar. BTW there are 61 different names for sugar listed on food labels, it’s worth a google if you’re not sure if there is added sugar in your foods. This is why doctors refer to sugar as, “the white death.”
Artificial Sweeteners: One might try to avoid the health issues of sugar by switching to artificial sweeteners. Some studies claim that artificial sweeteners will lead to a hike in blood sugar, migraines, obesity, and mood disorders. While other studies claim they are safe. There’s a range of artificial sweeteners on the market and while the debates rage, I will sit on the sidelines. However, I always go with natural sources over chemicals. Therefore, if you can't kick a little sweetness, do the real thing in moderation. Chocolate above 72% Cacao has some good health benefits and will subdue the sweet tooth. Just remember, moderation!
Processed Carbohydrates (AKA More Sugar) – Processed Carbohydrates get broken down into simple sugars (glucose) and therefore cause a spike in your blood sugar levels. Which gets us back to consuming sugar. Processed, refined carbohydrates might taste good to your tongue, but they’re not doing anything for your body. For starters, they have no nutritional value and are actually worthless calories. And they also lead to fluctuating blood sugar levels that can cause you to feel moody and irritable.
Many processed carbs, particularly standard packaged foods, are high in sodium. And aside from making you extra thirsty, that extra sodium causes your body to retain more fluid, which then forces your heart to work harder to keep the blood pumping. It can also increase blood pressure, making you feel bloated and generally unwell, which can certainly increase your stress levels.
If you remember from emails in the past, your brain and gut are in constant communication, therefore it is important to mindfully eat.
Do your blood sugar a favor.Skip the sugar and fake sweeteners and try these natural sweeteners instead.
ALCOHOL: A glass of wine might help you feel more relaxed after an intense day, but have much more than that and you’re likely negating any of alcohol’s health benefits and, instead, adding more stress to your life. That’s because drinking alcohol can increase the production of hormones that will leave you feeling anxious and more stressed than before you began imbibing. It can also increase blood pressure and heart rate and trigger those same stress-like symptoms within the body. Lots of alcoholic drinks are also packed with sugar, which means you’ll be getting a double whammy of stress-causing ingredients—first from the alcohol and then from whatever way-too-sweet mixer is used in your cocktail.
And if you think you’ll just sleep off the stress, that’s unlikely. Alcohol disrupts your sleep patterns, so while you might fall asleep more easily than usual, you won’t get the deep sleep that’s necessary to feel refreshed. The result is a cranky morning after and—you guessed it!—more stress.
EXCESS CAFFEINE: If you can’t function without your morning cup of Joe, you don’t need to give up coffee completely. But if you’re regularly drinking several cups each day, you’re likely going to find yourself feeling more stressed than you’d like. Too much caffeine can spell trouble for your adrenal glands by overstimulating the body. But if you can’t function without your morning cup of Joe, you don’t need to give up coffee completely. But if you’re regularly drinking several cups each day, you’re likely going to find yourself feeling more stressed than you’d like. Too much caffeine can spell trouble for your adrenal glands by overstimulating the body. And because it stimulates the nervous system, caffeine can cause a rise in blood pressure and heart rate that will ultimately increase feelings of anxiety. In fact, if you suffer from anxiety, one of the first things you should do is cut out caffeine.
Finally, it’s important to remember that caffeine isn’t found in just coffee. It’s also in soft drinks, certain types of tea, energy drinks, over-the-counter pain relievers, and even chocolate.
As always, stay healthy friends!