So what, exactly, is going on here?
I know you may have heard this before, but it is so crucial to your success that it bears repeating: When the body is too often in a stress response, or “fight or flight,” your entire physiology shifts, like the sides of an imbalanced seesaw.
This shift aggressively activates the fight or flight organs (heart, lungs, metabolism), and simultaneously and aggressively shuts down the rest and digest organs (immune, digestion, reproductive, thyroid, etc.). This shift, used acutely, is not a problem, and it returns to balance once the stress is removed. Chronically over-activated because of perpetual “all-cause” stress (physical, mental, emotional, toxic, etc.), and we begin to suffer symptoms of the suppression of those particular organ systems.
The suppression of the digestive system occurs primarily at the level of stomach acid (hydrochloric acid, or HCl). The digestion works from the top down, or mouth to anus. The chemical breakdown of food in the stomach by HCl is the initial stage of digestion. When it is suppressed, nothing down the line (pancreatic enzymes, bile form gallbladder, absorption in small intestine, etc.) will work efficiently, which will compromise each subsequent step of digestion and absorption.
To make matters worse, stress suppresses the “motility,” or movement, of the entire gastrointestinal system through the autonomic nervous system (ANS). When this happens we have dysregulated movement of food and stool, and we have dysregulated constriction of muscles and sphincters. The breakdown of one of the most basic, essential, and yet energy-demanding systems of our body is a major concern.
The combination of these issues leads to myriad digestive-related symptoms that I see in Adrenal Dysfunction, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, fibromyalgia, etc. Symptoms I see range from fatigue after meals, belching, indigestion, decreased appetite, gas and bloating, and heartburn/reflux, to “leaky gut,” irritable bowel with diarrhea and/or constipation and dysbiosis, to food allergies and sensitivities and inflammatory bowel disease, such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.
If you are dealing with two or more of these symptoms and/or conditions, I strongly recommend that you have Adrenal Dysfunction ruled out as an underlying cause, or at least as the major contributing factor to your condition. By managing and healing the Adrenal Dysfunction, any other treatment that you may utilize for your condition will have a stronger effect and be much more beneficial. Remember, though the digestive system is compromised, the main underlying cause of this dysfunction is the Adrenal Dysfunction. Treat it, and you’ll be far more successful in balancing your digestion.