Many years ago I had very little awareness of just how chronic my anxiety had become. It took a rather blunt comment from a roommate to make me aware that what I was going through was not normal. Well it is pretty normal in the sense that most of us live our lives in a mental land where everything is bleak and dangerous. But this is far from what we can really be or should be in this life.
Chicken or the Egg?
Is it the chicken or egg for me I have often wondered? Did something predispose me to a life of anxiety? Is it genes? My environment? Poor diet? Toxins? Very possible it’s all of the above and many other things that have surfaced in my life that have contributed to this decline. Getting a handle on anxiety and stress starts with awareness and one of the biggest revelations that can initiate some serious change of thought is just how this impacts the human body.
For me personally, stress (physical, mental and emotional) has played a huge role in creating imbalance and subsequently I think led to disease. I thought I had been doing the things that I needed to do to be healthy, but I think this was something that I was telling myself to feel better about the things that I knew were causing me stress. I was still going one step forward and ten steps back. There were positive things I was doing, but just more of the stressors on my body than the positive really. It wasn’t until I started to really analyze things that I found I was harming my body in a number of ways. This came to a head in late 2015 when I couldn’t get a six month long flare under control. The number one thing that I continued to do from onset of Colitis to this time was just how I continued to mistreat my own body. I remember a specific interaction with a gastroenterologist early on in this disease telling me that the reason why you take these pills every day is so you can eat what you want. So in the back of my mind I gave myself an okay to eat fast foods and junky type foods, but the reality was that I just didn’t know what I didn’t know. But the main thing is I just continued to do the standard American way with fast food multiple times a week, poor food choices when I did cook at home and then there were the habitual kind of things that I did as well. I did exercise, but that became excessive as well on all fronts. Ultimately this was the perfect storm and led to a very downward spiral of my bodily systems. This is what I mean by the chicken or the egg. Did the stress cause me to maintain some of these negative aspects or did all of these negative aspects contribute to the stress. I think it’s a cycle with each feeding off one another, but most likely really got its fuel from the fact that I was severely out of balance from a nutritional perspective.
Let Go of Control
I guess what I am really saying here is that I think we all may be able to improve upon things from our current vantage point. For me now I am still in a GAPS diet mode weeding through foods that I am sensitive to and I have found A LOT of them through the last year. But even now I am still working on getting better with certain areas of my life. Probably the biggest aspect that I work on is the “letting go” piece. The control piece of this equation that keeps my mind locked into the negative loop. I do a much better job of stopping this to the point where the majority of my day is filled with positive uplifting things now. But it still does consume too much of my time I feel. It really is a progression if I look back though on where I was at one year ago. Two years ago. Four years ago. At each step along the way I have created new positive habits and done away with some of the old. Ultimately I discovered through study that what I had been going through created a lot of havoc over the years and greatly weakened my body more than I ever knew!
How the Body Handles Stress
Stress is indeed toxic for the body and it comes in many forms in our lives. It’s not just from the chronic worry, but the things that we put into our bodies that play a huge role in our health as well. One thing really does impact the other in a way that it creates a vicious cycle. Everything from high intake of refined sugars and carbohydrates to poor water quality can play a part and it all has the same impact. It all has devastating results on the body’s mechanisms to maintain a balance or homeostasis. Dr. Janet Lang, a hormone expert says that hormones function together and dysfunction together. The endocrine system is like an orchestra and it’s all led by a conductor, the pituitary gland. So when one component fails it impacts everything else as other glands try to pick up the slack. When it works together its nothing short of miraculous. When it fails it fails and your body is the launching pad for all hosts of issues.
Our body is capable of handling acute stressors, but chronic stress will lead to breakdown of this very complex system. In fact the one thing that is common in all disease is the breakdown of this homeostatic process and the inability to maintain a balance. When we are not good to our bodies, our body will tell us so. It may come in the form of many different symptoms but they all are rooted in imbalance. This imbalance surfaces as a result of chronic stress which impacts the level of cortisol in our body. By ingesting more sugar than our body can handle at once or going over the same anxiety ridden thoughts for example, will put the body in an emergency type of mode or the more common reference of “fight or flight”. The result is the release of cortisol from the adrenal glands. When this level is chronically high, the first gland to take a hit is the adrenal glands. Chronic overproduction of anything in the body will lead to fatigue and failure and the adrenals are the prime organ to take a hit from overproduction of this hormone. From there it’s a cascade of problems since all of the endocrine glands work together in harmony. The body is only as strong as its weakest link!
Learn To Cooperate With Change and Grow From It
Try to be easy on yourself if you are caught in this loop (and it can be a never ending loop it feels), but do yourself one big thing to right this ship and that’s change the things that you put into your body. From my own personal experience, I do feel that my ability to think straight and make good decisions really was a result of poor nutrition, habits and an imbalanced body. Everything else seems to kind of fall into place once you get this piece figured out! Future posts will provide some guidance on good food selection, preparation and transition, but for now try to take a look at what you could be doing differently in this area. I think you will find that once sugars, fast foods, hydrogenated oils, additives and other nasties in convenience foods are either cut out or severely diminished, you will have clarity that you have not had for a very long time…maybe ever! Good luck and please contact me with questions or comments!
Ian Sandage is a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner who speaks from the personal experience of someone with autoimmune disease and the highs and lows of a health journey