The stress it is a splendid defense mechanism of the organism. As soon as we notice danger, we activate the nervous system very quickly autonomic sympathetic, which accelerates heart and breathing to be able to carry oxygen to the muscles in case you have to run away or fight, increases blood pressure, commands the liver to put sugar in the blood, always to feed the muscles, dilates the pupil to see better, increases sweating (to cool the body in case you have to engage in intense physical effort) and blocks the organic functions that are not needed in an emergency, such as digestion and the immune system (never mind worrying about microbes when the wolf is around), sexual function, growth hormone.
The adrenal glands increase the production of adrenaline and cortisol (the stress hormones) which enhance the effects described above. The mechanism of activation of the sympathetic is very rapid but complex: lPerception of danger inhibits the dorsomedial prefrontal cerebral cortexwhich has the function of inhibiting the amygdala, the central unit of emotions, a nervous nucleus the size of an almond located deep in the temporal lobe. The amygdala, no longer inhibited, through yet another series of steps, frees the sympathetic system. Once the danger has passed, everything goes back to the way it was before, or at least it went back to the way it was when we lived in the virgin forest or in the savannah.
Today we live in the city and are continually exposed to stressful stimulitraffic, noise, haste, performance anxiety, financial worries, problematic work environment, concern for teenage children, quarrels with spouse, social defeat. The stress is constantchronic. The effect on the gut is complex, on the one hand stress blocks their movements, but on the other it can activate them, so much so that when we are afraid we poop and pee ourselves. Doctors talk about functional dyspepsia (we don’t digest well) and of irritable bowel syndrome (constipation alternating with diarrhea, swelling and belly pain).
In recent years it has become clear that stress also affects the microbes that live in the gut (or that gut microbes react to stress by producing substances that in turn affect the nervous system). Lactobacilli and bifidobacteria are reduced, our best friends, and microbes capable of becoming virulent, such as Escherichia coli and Pseudomonas, are increasing. The intestines normally house trillions of microbes belonging to hundreds of different species. They do a lot for us, help us digest, train the immune system, produce substances that keep the intestinal mucosa healthy, reduce inflammation. The altered composition of bacterial species is called dysbiosis and is usually associated with inflammation and increased intestinal permeability (the intestine absorbs things it shouldn’t absorb, including bacterial products and poorly digested protein fragments).
Leaky gut is an important cause of autoimmune diseases (by making antibodies against those pieces of protein that we shouldn’t have absorbed it can happen that some of these antibodies also attack our organs). More studies have suggested a relationship between chronic stress and autoimmune diseases. More and more studies find a relationship between the composition of the intestinal microbiota and nervous disorders such as anxiety and depression and there is more and more data to suggest that dysbiosis also influences the risk of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
What to do? It can be useful take probiotics and prebiotics (the nourishment of the ‘good’ bacteria), but the most important thing is to activate the parasympathetic system (the vagus nerve) to reduce the effects of stress. The vagus nerve calms the heart and breathing and reactivates all those functions blocked by stress, including digestive processes.
How to do? Two ways on which to act, as we recommend in the activities that the La Grande Via association proposes. One is eat well (there Mediterranean diet favors the action of the vagus), send down the belly, reduce blood sugar, reduce sugar, all factors that counteract the activity of the vagus nerve. Fructose in particular reduces vagal activity (but fruit is fine). Furthermore eat less (fasting activates the vagus nerve), eat peacefully, chew, without the television on. The other way is to meditate, pray, clear your mind, to sing. We’ll talk about it.
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November 17, 2022, 07:23 – edit November 17, 2022 | 07:24
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Franco Berrino: «Diet (and fasting) to combat stress and intestinal disorders»
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