Have you ever played with Legos? Your stomach is very much like legos, small pieces bound together creating a secure wall. This wall (aka lining) is not meant to be penetratable. In fact, God designed your stomach lining to be an act of defense. It even contains part of your immune system! Just like ancient cities were protected by immense walls and gates, your body and well being is protected by your defensive stomach lining.
Like legos, this wall of defense is somewhat fragile. It can be fortified and made stronger but it is none the less very perceptible to invaders and harm. Like guards who ran to the city walls to defend their homes and families, you must protect and strengthen your stomach lining. It is a gift and you are a steward. It can make or break your health but the responsibility to keep it functioning as such relies in your hands.
Now, before you know how to fortify and protect your wall of defense, let’s talk about what you should be protecting it from. You need to know the difference between a friendly visitor and a not-so-friendly visitor (aka enemy). In this post we will be talking about our vicious enemy Number One, stress. Do not scroll down or “skip” this. I wanted to tackle stress first, for a very specific reason. Reason being, we tend to poo poo and underestimate the harm regular stress can cause. We (or at least myself up until this past year) roll our eyes at every article on how stress hurts us. We simply see our physical problems in one basket and our spiritual or emotional problems in another basket. Wrong! The two are very much interlinked. Eye twitching. Stomach aches. Headaches. Blood pressure. “Butterflies.” Bad dreams. We don’t realize that are souls are in fact intertwined with our bodies.
You can eat so very well, so very conciously and YET wreck havoc within your gut. If you are a worrier, tense/high strung individual, or generally feel overwhelmed, your body is very much aware. Enter . . . science lesson.
SCIENCE LESSON : On top of both kidneys are little, priceless guys known as the “adrenal glands.” These glands secrete the hormones our bodies need to function properly. Cortisol is one of these hormones and is secreted in times of stress. These times of stress can range anywhere from jogging, lifting weights, playing tag in the park, spilling a glass of red wine on your white carpet, receiveing a tragic phone call etc. In other words, you could be happy as a clam or angry as a bear.
Cortisol itself is a good thing, a specifically designed steroid.. Cortisol itself isn’t our gut’s enemy, too much cortisol is our gut’s enemy. Obviously, in a perfect world with perfect bodies, too much cortisol wouldn’t be “a thing”. However we are in a far from perfect world with far from perfect health and far from perfect circumstancse. In result, too much coritsol is indeed “a thing.”
Our bodies were not designed to handle high amounts of cortisol. As a result, something within the body has to give. This would be the protective mucous lining that coats the gut’s wall. Not only does this lining contain pieces of your immune system, it’s also thick and slimy (ie mucous). It’s the perfect protective agent! It can withstand the acidic nature of the stomach, cling the gut wall and defend the wall from invaders with it’s thick and gel-like nature. An overproduction of cortisol however, decreases the production of our mucous membrane, leading to an unprotected stomach wall. It’s like taking the pads off your elbows before a wipe out. It’s like telling the guards to kick back while the city wall is being attacked.
What happens to our stomachs when the lining is compromised? You name it . . . ulcers, bloating, food sensitivities, and leaky gut (where the contents of your gut actually leak into your blood stream) which ultimately leads to autoimmune disease or an autoimmune response (hair loss, lupus, chronic inflammation, “IBS,” etc.)
So . . . now that you’ve been dumped with a depressing reality that is in fact, reality, what do you do? Stress isn’t always a choice. When a loved one passes away or you lost your job, stress is a reality. When your kid comes crying to you with a broken arm, leaning back in your chair and explaining that stress will compromise your health isn’t an appropriate response. Stress is a part of life. The answer doesn’t lie in escaping stress but rather managing stress. So. What do we do? How to we manage stress, the regular hussle and bustle of life? The regular traffic and the infrequent tragic? Stay tuned and we will tackle this funky tension in part 3.