Do you ever feel like stress is running you? From the endless to-do lists, checking of emails, keeping up with the news, finances, family, pandemic. Whatever it is that keeps you up at night is creating a cascade of emotional and physiological effects that last longer than the acute experience of stress. While this topic may be stressful (does it ever end?!), it’s important to talk about. Until the problem is addressed, it can’t be solved.
We all know stress affects our cardiovascular health, but more and more research is showing just how much it affects our GI health. According to the NCBI, “Altering the permeability of the mucosal membrane by perturbing the functions of mucosal mast cells may be another way that stress causes its effects on the GI system, since this is a normal process by which harmful and toxic substances are removed from the intestinal lumen (Söderholm and Perdue, 2001). This is also known as leaky gut, something that most people are walking around with but don’t know it. It’s one of the first things Functional Medicine providers address when treating chronic disease, and the treatment requires the elimination of certain foods that are causing inflammation for the patient.
Having personally gone through this protocol to treat chronic anxiety and depression naturally, I can say that it was challenging eliminating everyday foods I was used to, but that the results were undeniable. In addition to a significant improvement in my mental health after only a month of eliminating foods, I also lost 15 lbs, my skin cleared, I started sleeping better, and I didn’t have as many cravings. I’ve also worked as an Integrative Medicine Health Coach for 5 years, and have witnessed the transformation in my clients’ chronic illnesses when healing the GI tract is a priority. The NCBI did their own study and found, “The evidence is strong: Protection and restoration of the intestinal firewall is of primary importance in many patients suffering from a wide range of chronic diseases. The functional medicine approach to evaluation and treatment of problems associated with compromised integrity of the intestinal firewall represents a successful application of the systems biology approach to the management of chronic disease, (Bland, 2016).
It seems science is showing us that maybe there IS something to that whole concept of the mind and body being interconnected. If stress can damage my digestive tract, then maybe the inverse of stress (ie. well-being) could support my healing. Hmmmm, so maybe there is something to this whole meditation thing people keep going on about! I mean, scholarly articles are being written about it, so scientists are definitely interested in the power of this simple tool. Another NCBI study concluded that meditation is, “…an experience of unity, which reduces stress and brings increased creativity and efficiency to the functioning of the inner faculty. This is an exercise that occurs without the mind directing the process. In physical exercise, the mind does not tell the muscles to get stronger; rather, the muscles are strengthened automatically by the exercise process. Likewise, in this exercise of consciousness, that is, meditation, the results are achieved automatically, not by controlling the mind or any other mental manipulation. The process of meditation goes beyond the mind to the deepest level of the inner Self,” (Sharma, 2015).
At Lender Toolkit, we’re working hard to provide an environment and culture that supports our team’s well-being. We offer bi-weekly (secular) guided meditations, a book club that is currently reading Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, and are currently working on a wellness roadmap to continue furthering our effort to support our employees as best we can. We hope you do the same for your team, too, or if you are a team member, that you feel that from your organization.
Söderholm JD, Perdue MHAm J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol. 2001 Jan; 280(1):G7-G13, Stress and gastrointestinal tract. II. Stress and intestinal barrier function.
Yaribeygi, H., Panahi, Y., Sahraei, H., Johnston, T. P., & Sahebkar, A. (2017). The impact of stress on body function: A review. EXCLI journal, 16, 1057–1072. https://doi.org/10.17179/excli2017-480
Bland J. (2016). The Gut Mucosal Firewall and Functional Medicine. Integrative medicine (Encinitas, Calif.), 15(4), 19–22.
Sharma H. (2015). Meditation: Process and effects. Ayu, 36(3), 233–237. https://doi.org/10.4103/0974-8520.182756