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Guts & Nerves Part II

In the last email 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 interacts with your nervous system. Let’s start by talking about cortisol, the stress hormone. This hormone is released by the adrenal gland to help people deal with stress and regulate blood sugar levels. It is a steroid hormone released when your body switches into the sympathetic nervous system, “fight or flight,” to help with stress and when your have a spike in your blood sugar. Too much cortisol can have some serious negative side effects. 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.” The overproduction of cortisol due to spikes in blood sugar levels is a major reason to be conscious about what you’re putting into your mouth! Do not emotionally eat bags of chips or pints of Cherry Garcia.

Here’s why:

Sugar – Known to many physicians as “the white death,” sugar spikes blood sugar levels and therefore leads to the release of more cortisol. 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, bedsides the previously mentioned Cushing syndrome. Do not eat sugar because you’re stressed…in fact you may be stressed because you eat sugar. Besides the “run of the mill” type stress, spikes in blood sugar levels can lead to terrible mood swings as well. By the way, 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. 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 adrenal fatigue and hypercortisolism. A good rule of thumb for carbohydrates is this: if it doesn’t visibly go bad, don’t eat it. Remember that french fry you found under the driver's side seat of the car six months after your visit to Micky D’s and it still looked edible? That’s not natural! Most refined and processed carbs taste great and never fill you up (the manufactures of these tasty snacks have got our number!). Processed carbs have almost no nutritional value and come with a host of negatives. If you can replace them with healthy snacks, your body will thank you!

Until next time.. Stay healthy, my friends!

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