Maybe you have kids to feed. Or a business to run.
Maybe there has been some kind of dramatic change in your life. Or maybe you are juggling so many projects that you wish there were more hours in a day.
Whatever the reason, most of us have at one point or another pushed our body beyond its comfort level to the point of physiologic stress.
Irregular eating patterns and lack of sleep may seem like nothing more than a small sacrifice for the bigger picture - the job, the schedule, or the kids. However, an even bigger picture envelops these demands: the stress response system of the body.
Linking the Gut, the Brain, and Stress
The inflammatory response seen in those with a permeable gut/permeable blood brain barrier can be chronic while at the same time being an acute condition. Meaning, it's always there, and sometimes there are flare-ups. This is an extreme situation.
It's important to know that simple stress also creates an inflammatory response. This is common and not what most would consider extreme.
The brain and gut share a very close relationship. Both lack pain receptors in the epithelial tissue. Both also produce neurotransmitters; however, the gut produces a significantly larger amount than the brain - up to 90%. Linked together by the vagus nerve, the gut and the brain each have an acute sensitivity to the status of the other. For example, in numerous trials, an injury to the head has been shown to lead to gut permeability. And alternatively, leaky gut has been shown to affect brain function in very significant ways without any gastrointestinal manifestations. (1)(2)
How Sleep and Blood Sugar Effect Stress
Not getting enough sleep regularly can create a pattern in your brain that leaves you vulnerable to neural degeneration!
For example, you skip a meal, or you get 4 -6 hours of sleep instead of your usual 8 hours. No big deal, right? Well, these events activate a stress response. An occasional drop in blood sugar or a late night out with friends is no cause for sustained alarm.
However, if it becomes a pattern, your brain creates a deep pathway for it. This is called limbic system plasticity. And what it means is that you become more prone to activating a sympathetic nervous system fight or flight response.
- Cortisol, the hormone that is released in response to stress and low blood sugar, has been found to degrade the hippocampus center of the brain. This means that prolonged exposure to stress causes neural degeneration.
- Stress has been found to weaken the blood brain barrier.
- Additionally, stress causes the systemic release of IL-6 (a pro-inflammatory cytokine), which leads to the breakdown of tissue. Consider this: an argument with your spouse will raise IL-6 levels in the body for three days.
- Limbic system plasticity, a chronic high-stress response that has become habitual, constantly engages the sympathetic nervous system, which leads to reduced gut motility and constriction of blood vessels. This means a reduced opportunity to repair leaky gut due to reduced blood flow. (3)(4)
It's important to note that once you fatigue your brain, endure sustained stress, and circulate high levels of cortisol, thereby degrading the hippocampus or weakening the blood brain barrier, you are more prone to neural inflammation and degradation. Once this happens, the gut becomes inflamed.
Body Ecology Probiotic Beverages, Assist Full Spectrum Enzymes, and Assist SI will help mitigate gut permeability. Gut flora is an important aspect of the gut mucosal barrier. Additionally, gut permeability happens in the small intestine, where nutrients are being transferred into the bloodstream. Enzymes are most active in the upper gastrointestinal tract, which includes the small intestine, and will assist in the digestion of and absorption of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates.
Donna Gates recommends the following adaptogenic herbs for stress:
- Holy Basil: The most revered of all the Ayruvedic herbs, Holy Basil is not related to the basil we grow in our gardens. Also known as Tulsi, Holy Basil has a very valuable role in our lives today. Click here for a recommended brand of Tulsi (Holy Basil). Use it to lower your elevated cortisol and regulate your blood sugar. Take 2 supercritical extracts in the morning if you feel stressed out.
- Ashwagandha: The herb that has been shown to increase energy and mental alertness during the day has also been shown in research to help you sleep better at night. I suggest a higher dose for an adult of 1500 mg in the morning and 1500 mg in the afternoon. Click here for a recommended brand of ashwagandha. You will love how it helps improve your sleep at night.
- Rhodiola: Rhodiola has been used to decrease depression, improve work performance, eliminate fatigue, and stimulate the nervous system. This is one of the reasons we include Rhodiola in our popular green drink, Vitality SuperGreen.
- Dong Quai: It is also called Angelica sinsensis and is said to be the "queen" of herbs for balancing women's hormones, and it is a superior blood tonic and rebuilder. Interestingly, it is also used by men to improve the health of their prostrate gland. It creates energy, helps with depression, and is also calming. Dong Quai is additionally a source of vitamins E, A, and B12. Try our new Dong Quai probiotic drink for a boost in energy along with a healthy inner ecosystem! Be sure to read The 9 Benefits of Dong Quai Almost No One is Aware Of.
WHAT TO REMEMBER MOST ABOUT THIS ARTICLE:
Stress can induce an inflammatory response in specifically the hippocampus center of the brain, which leads to an aging cascade in the brain and throughout the body. This is particularly relevant in the gut, where we often see a direct mirror of the brain's health. Likewise, a compromised digestive tract will affect the whole body and will specifically show in blood brain barrier permeability.
Ensuring that the gut mucosal barrier is intact is one way to protect not only the gut by warding off an inflammatory response, but this also protects the health of your brain. It is important to include a full spectrum enzyme when working with any kind of gut disharmony, systemic inflammation, or compromised brain function.
- Probiotic Beverages
- Fermented foods
- Assist Full Spectrum Enzymes
- Assist SI
- Holy Basil
- Vitality SuperGreen
- Dong Quai
- Hadjvassiolu, M. et al. Headaches and the CNS: white matter abnormalities associated with gluten sensitivity. Neurology. 56 : 385 - 388; Feb, 2001.
- Occult Celiac Disease presenting as Epilepsy and MRI Changes that Responded to a Gluten-Free Diet. Neurology. 13: 533 - 534; 2007.
- "Renew - Stress on the brain." Franklin Institute Online. http://www.fi.edu/learn/brain/stress.html#top.
- Kharrazian, Datis. Why Do I Still Have THYROID Symptoms? New York: Morgan James, 2010.
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