Back when I was first noticing my gut issues I was determined to figure out what was making me feel so awful. I thought maybe it was my love affair with black beans or the fact that I had had broccoli almost every night most weeks. Or maybe I was drinking too much coffee. Could the acid in the coffee be ripping my gut apart?
Just like any normal person, I went to The Google and started researching my symptoms. And in addition to me dying, having some type of cancer and a million other things the internet told me was the reason to my gut problems, I started reading other people's stories. I wondered if her diagnosis was my diagnosis. Is the reason his gut flared up the same reason as mine?
Let me just be super, duper clear guys. When I'm first recognizing these symptoms, I'm the healthiest I had ever been. I had already lost 10+ lbs naturally. I was exercising 3-4 days per week out of my own will and loving it. I was drinking green smoothies by the wazoo and limiting how many times a week I bought out. I was meditating until I was damn near levitating, you know what I mean? So WHY was this HAPPENING to ME?!
So you can imagine that when I first sat down at my first appointment four years later with my Functional Medicine doctor that I was expecting her to tell me I had a food allergy. That something I was eating (or multiple things) didn't sit well in my gut and that that's the reason why I've been holding a balloon in my belly for the last few years.
No, my friends, she did not tell me that. At least not at first.
She told me that my gut problems were caused by stress. [enter hard side-eye here]
Ahem, I'm sorry, excuse me, what?! Stress, you say?
And she proceeded to run down my history report that I was required to fill out before my appointment and pinpointed each and every moment that seemed particularly stressful. But I think it was like the movies where the person is talking and everything gets blurry and fades out. Real dramatic, like Grey's Anatomy style. I was beside myself.
I am a happy person. Ask anyone and they'll tell you I'm Susie Sunshine 97% of the time, always seeing the glass half full & being optimistic in life. Sure I can get stressed easily but I wouldn't consider myself a stressful person. But my doctor was right. Once I tuned back into reality and listened to her tell me which parts of my life were recorded high on the stress scale, she was right.
There are several moments in my life that if I'm really honest with myself were really stressful. A few family instances in high school, being in a 6 year relationship all through college, breaking up with said relationship and moving back in with my parents, trying to find a "real job" out of college, drinking & eating a lot to cope with breakup feelings, meeting the love of my life, my aunt (aka 2nd mom) unexpectedly passing away, leaving the love of my life, re-meeting the same love of my life, moving to NYC, moving back from NYC...you get the idea.
I've had a lot of big life changes that happened consistently over the years. And as I sit here typing this I'm proud of how I handled everything. But yes, these were all stressful moments. Do you know what else is stressful? Trying to lose weight. Did you know that craving a food and denying yourself of that craving is recognized by the body as stress?
According to my doctor, your body reacts to stresses in the same way. It doesn't matter if it's over exercising, dealing with a traumatic event or deprivation of foods. All your body knows is that you want something that you can't have and it must react in this programmed way. And when this happens it breaks down the good bacteria in our stomachs and gives ammo to the bad bacteria to grow. And if this cycle continues it begins to break down our digestive system over time. Which is what happened to me.
And so what was the one thing my doctor wanted me to fix? How I handle stressful situations. Because my body is already in so much turmoil from the last four years of not knowing what was going on, stressing about it & not having a solution, the easiest thing for me to help my gut along is to stop stressing. Or at least calmly deal with most stressful situations.
So, if you're currently dealing with gut issues and wondering what the hell caused it - maybe consider your stress levels. And to help you, I'm sharing the five ways I'm dealing with stress these days.
The 5 Ways I'm Dealing With Stress
1. Getting to the root of the problem/situation
Sometimes we can stress out over absolutely nothing. But, how do we know unless we wipe away all the drama and get directly down to the root of the issue? For example, when I first started my candida diet I felt stressed. But it wasn't until I got down to the root did I realize that I just needed to have the right tools (aka groceries & recipes) under my belt to make this work. It wasn't the candida diet that was stressing me out and I felt in control again of the situation.
2. Watch/Read/Listen to something funny or uplifting
Sometimes you're going to have an awful day. It happens to the best of us. And on those days I choose to think of or do something else that brings in happier feelings. So I'll turn on Knocked Up (one of my favorite movies) or listen to some India Arie. While it doesn't solve my problems, at the moment I'm able to tune out & calm down.
3. Move my body
When I'm stressed I have a hard time doing nothing. So I've been doing some home yoga practices or hitting the spin studio to sweat it out. It's so damn hard to get there in the beginning but, once it's over I'm so glad I went.
4. Talk it out
Let me keep it all the way real. We create a lot of untrue and unnecessary stories in our heads. All of a sudden the person that cut you off on the way to work results in you being angry at the world and throwing your fists in the air. Sometimes it's helpful to talk to someone and get it out. Not to mention, an outsider can usually bring you to your senses and make you realize how tiny the issue may be.
5. Let it go
Usually, we stress out because we don't have control of the situation. Sometimes we can regain control (see #1) but often times we can't. Deaths, breakups, being laid off, etc. many times these things aren't our fault yet, we stress about it infinitely. When I'm stressed out about a situation that I can't seem to gain control of I usually just repeat "let go, let flow" over and over again until my shoulders relax, my eyebrows soften and I stop clenching my jaw.
Feel free to use any of the above stress-relieving tips I offered above. They've been helping me so much lately and I'm telling you, all of this is already having such a positive impact on my gut.
What do you do to de-stress? Share below!