Over the years, I have worked with clients with literally every digestive problems you could possibly imagine.
H. pylori (the bad bacteria that causes ulcers). Ulcerative colitis. Large intestine completely removed. Food allergies. Hepatitis. Parasites. Salmonella. Gallbladder problems, liver problems. Insufficient digestive enzymes. Low stomach acid. I can’t even remember it all, but I get to the bottom of it and put together an integrated solution.
I always begin by teaching clients what they need to eat in order to heal. This is an individual matter and requires a personalized solution.
But once we have conquered a whole new way of eating we have to face this larger issue, which I call dealing with the reality of this thing we call life. You know the one – that imperfect experience that sometimes grabs us by surprise.
Cutting to the chase, you may be eating 110 percent perfectly, but if you don’t have a handle on your emotions, you may continue to suffer from uncontrolled inflammation and unmitigated digestive hell.
Why is learning how to deal with your emotions so critical?
Why is stress management an essential part of the healing process?
Let me begin by giving you a small lesson in your body chemistry.
When you become emotionally upset, your body produces the stress hormones adrenalin and cortisol.
You may be aware when you are releasing adrenalin because you feel wired, pumped up, potentially breathless and probably even more fiery and cantankerous. It can even feel good to run on adrenalin. The way cocaine works is that it makes your body release lots of adrenalin. You already know – at least on some level – that cocaine would be very bad for you. So you can imagine what I would have to say about running around on adrenalin.
Cortisol is the most destructive hormone in the body.
When you release cortisol, your body converts proteins in the liver into glucose through a process called gluconeogenesis. Not only does this make you fatter, it stresses your liver, which has about 300 other important jobs to do, including detoxifying your body so you don’t get even nastier illnesses like cancer.
Cortisol also activates the sympathetic nervous system, which is part of the nervous system that keeps you wired up and stressed out.
The reason all this is very bad for your digestion is that digestion is a parasympathetic process.
Simply put, your body needs you to calm the hell down in order for your digestive organs to do their job.
If you are breathless and upset when you eat, your body can’t produce the enzymes to help. Your peristalsis – that wave-like process where food goes down – is either inhibited or shut down when your body releases lots of cortisol.
This whole nasty cycle becomes one big vicious circle. You get stressed out, your digestive system doesn’t work properly and the resulting inflammation in your GI tract releases even more cortisol.
Of course, I could go on and on about the many other problems you probably want to avoid caused by excess cortisol. Weight gain around your midsection, the fact that cortisol kills your brain cells, so you are not only fatter but also stupider. Infertility. Immune suppression, so that when you do get sick your healing process takes much longer. Thyroid problems, chronic fatigue, even osteoporosis because uncontrolled cortisol is so vicious it will even break down your bones as well as your hair and your muscles.
You feel awful, age really fast and can’t understand why that healthy eating plan you have been so diligent about isn’t working.
Once you really grok – I mean really deeply comprehend – the negative biochemical effects of all your self-induced stress – you will want to get a better handle on your emotions and find a way to be calmer all day long.
For example, it is a scientific fact that if you get angry for just 5 minutes – and who gets angry for ONLY 5 minutes – your cortisol remains elevated for 6 hours.
If you get angry from 5 p.m. to 5:05 p.m., for example, it could take you until 11 p.m. to clear those stress hormones.
And this is provided you don’t do something stupid or inappropriate because you are already wired up to begin with, further aggravating your stress cycle and the physical consequences.
That means that when you eat your dinner, there will be fewer digestive enzymes available for you to process your food. Your inflammation that results from impaired digestion of your dinner will more than likely make it harder for you to get to sleep or stay asleep, further aggravating the entire unfortunate process.
So what’s the solution?
1. If you have digestive problems, become a bit of a biological scientist. Learn what cortisol is and what it’s doing to you.
2. Keep a personal log of every time during the day you are getting upset. This should prove extremely educational.
3. Write down the emotion or emotions that keep coming up for you. Is it anger? Frustration? Fear? Impatience? Whatever it is, write that down, so you can start to comprehend the energy that’s inside of you.
4. If possible, make an estimate of how long during the daytime you are feeling that negative emotion. More than likely you are upset for more than 5 minutes at a time, giving you a glimpse of how you are impeding your own healing process.
5. Now once you have faced the awful truth, make an agreement with yourself to begin some sort of stress management program. The gold standard would be meditation. You could also go for a walk, take a nap, listen to soothing music, take up knitting or beading, soak in a hot bath. You could join a yoga, tai chi or qi gong class. You could spend time in nature. You may think of 100 other healthy things you can do instead.
6. Finally, once you have identified the emotion or emotions that trigger your inflammation, get some sort of emotional therapy. I am a kinesiologist and part of the healing work that I do with my digestive clients is to clear out the emotional triggers that kicked off their problems to begin with.
As they say, we have met the enemy and he is actually us.
What is healing? Healing happens when we make the mind-body connection to comprehend how our own negativity is affecting the way we feel emotionally and physically. Own up and give yourself permission to find a better way.