Are You An Adrenaline Junkie? Here's How It May Be Harming Your Gut...
The modern day adrenaline junkie tends to be less of a sports car racer, and more along the lines of the working mom trying to meet a last minute deadline, the college student missing the subway, or a dad dealing with a snarky toddler. The continuous stresses of our day-to-day modern lives attribute to higher levels of adrenaline — and fyi, adrenaline leads to major problems in your gut.
Biologically, adrenaline is released when we feel threatened, aka: the flight-or-flight response. The response is intended to pass quickly, along with the threat. Adrenaline has served a great purpose throughout history when our ancestors were faced with daily danger (more in the form of bears, and various "natural element" stressors). Adrenaline has now become a biological response to every day events, even the non-life-threatening ones.
Adrenaline is produced in the adrenal glands and acts as a hormone in the body and a neurotransmitter in the brain. Adrenaline can affect every system in your body, primarily your digestive system and your overall gut health. We spend too much time in “fight or flight” mode and not enough time in “rest and digest”. This leads to negative changes in the gut.
Stress and adrenaline have the ability to change the makeup of our gut microbiome, and not in a positive manner. Stress reduces the diversity of your gut bacteria! The less diverse your flora, the more difficult it can be to maintain a healthy weight and the more susceptible you are to food allergies and sensitivities. The result is an overabundance of bad bacteria, associated with all types of digestive issues.
No matter how hard you work on your digestive health, until you manage your adrenal stressors, you can never fully be well.
Just Breathe ~
It shouldn’t be so difficult to breathe, yet we can go hours without so much as taking a full exhale, much less a full, deep breath. Breathing is important because each breath is a direct communication with every cell in your body. It’s saying “I’m safe and everything is going to be okay”. Your gut is hungry for oxygen too. Parts of the stomach consume more oxygen than any other tissue in your body! Your intestinal villi extract oxygen from your blood during digestion — when there is a lack of oxygen in the blood, then nutrient absorption declines.
An easy start is to inhale for a four count and then exhale for a four count throughout the day. Other ways to promote better breathing are a morning meditation practice, yoga, a leisurely 20 minute walk in nature, or making a cup of tea and thinking about how grateful you are to be alive today.
Invest in high quality probiotics and digestive enzymes ~
Probiotics are essential to gut health, boosting beneficial bacteria. The stress factor can throw your bacteria out of balance and can be difficult to avoid. I recommend a minimum of 50 billion beneficial bacteria and most of my clients take at least 100 billion, or up to 150 billion.
If your adrenals are overworked and you are chronically stressed, chances are that you’re not properly absorbing all of the nutrients from the food you eat. Digestive enzymes ensure you digest your food properly and absorb much-needed nutrients.
Watch your sugar intake and eat regularly to balance blood sugar levels ~
Blood sugar stress is one of the most stressful things we incur on a daily basis. Yes, you will deal with many stressful events in your life, but probably none that happen every single day. Failing to balance blood sugar places an enormous amount of daily adrenal stress on your body. If you go long periods of time without eating, or eat too much sugar and then suffer from the proceeding “crash”, you are further damaging your gut.
Cutting back on sugar can make a significant difference. Eating every 2-3 hours and getting a balance of protein, complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, and fiber will also help balance sugar. Be conscious in consuming low-glycemic foods, as they release sugar in a steady manner. Great sources include leafy greens and vegetables, nuts and seeds, beans and legumes, gluten free whole grains, and coconut (all found in a typical Sakara meal!)
Caffeine is not your friend ~
If you already have anxious / stressed / nervous feelings, caffeine will make you produce more adrenaline. In fact, cortisol is released after consuming coffee, whether you’re stressed or not. Matcha green tea is a better option, because the caffeine content is buffered by L-theanine (an amino acid present in the tea plant that induces relaxation and reduces stress without drowsiness). Matcha is also rich in antioxidants that can repair oxidative stress caused by adrenaline and cortisol.
Tulsi tea, aka Holy Basil, is another incredible caffeine replacer. Holy basil is an adaptogenic herb that can help reduce stress, while promoting alertness and energy.
Drink lots of water….in between meals ~
Drink water between meals instead of with your meal, because water’s higher pH interferes with stomach acid. For those already suffering from digestive issues causes by adrenal stress, this can be especially risky. Drinking water with your food can raise insulin levels and decrease the absorption of nutrients.
It is best to drink fluids before and two hours after meals, as this aids in ultimate digestion and assimilation — both the KEY to a happy tummy.
Bottom line: Don’t be an adrenal junkie!
Elissa Goodman is a holistic nutritionist and lifestyle cleanse expert who believes that proper nourishment and a daily renewal practice are essential for optimal living. Elissa’s mission is to educate and encourage healthy, mindful living helping others embrace the concept that we are a product of what we eat and how we treat ourselves. She is based in Los Angeles and works privately with professionals and celebrity clients to develop personalized wellness programs that encourage true health from the inside out. Elissa’s first book, Cancer Hacks, is available now. Also, discover her inspiring IG!