The following is a summary
of an article titled “How Stress Affects Your Heart and Gut Health” written by Mercola on March 28, 2013.
Our feelings effect our bodies and our wellness by creating physiological changes in the heart, guts, brain, and other cell system in the body. Stressors become problems when responses are negative, feelings are inappropriate for the circumstance, the response last for a long period of time, and there is a feeling of being overwhelmed. Since stress cannot be entirely eliminated from our lives it is important to make changes and work toward bringing the body balance.
Women experience stress different than men (in most cases). Women will experience stomach-churning anxiety, sadness, and preoccupation of the mind more than men. This preoccupation may result in a cycle of internalizing stress and therefore make it more difficult to address problems since sadness and anxiety are passive emotions.
Research shows that people who have experienced traumatic or long-term stress are more apt to have cardiac problems than those who have not. In a study with 208,000 veterans, 35 percent of those diagnosed with PTSD developed insulin resistance in just two years, compared with those who did not have PTSD. About 53 percent also had metabolic syndrome, which is the collection of symptoms that raise the risk of heart disease.
When losing a loved one and experiencing extreme grief, the risk of a heart attack increases the next day by 21 times! The following week the risk is increased 6 times, and then mellows out by the next month. This may be due to the extreme increase of stress hormones that flood the body during extreme stress. Broken heart syndrome is also a condition that occurs with extreme stress. This is essentially the same as a heart attack but the arteries are not blocked. It is more like the heart is stunned and weakened by sudden trauma of grief. While it still requires medical attention, the heart will strengthen as the stress subsides.
When stressed, the body stops digestion completely. This stress response causes: decreased nutrient absorption, elevated cholesterol, food sensitivity, decreased oxygenation to the gut, heart burn, and less blood flow to the digestive system. Less blood flow leads to decreased metabolism and enzyme production.
When under stress the body produces cortisol and insulin. Elevated cortisol due to low level stress that is consistent will make it hard to lose weight. Weight gain is also a side effect of chronically elevated cortisol. This can lead to metabolic syndrome and diabetes. Critical nutrients are also excreted during stress, making it hard to stay in balance.
Because the body halts digestion when stressed, eating healthy food is most beneficial to the body when it is not stressed out. Since the highest levels of serotonin are in the gut, making sure the nourishment is absorbed into the gut is important for brain function. Probiotics can lower cortisol levels and impact feelings of anxiety or depression.
For optimal health, be sure to exercise, meditate, and take time to sit and eat without rushing.