Stress is so obvious in modern life! We may not be able to even imagine a human life without stress. Stress has become a universally common phenomenon. The moment we wake up, a new stress cycle begins. Today’s world is a pretty safe place. There is no danger lurking at every step. But the human body, designed for the life-and-death situations our ancestors faced continuously during their hunting days or even earlier, keeps reacting just like in those days.
The changes that impact digestion adversely originate not in the stomach, but in the brain. When the brain senses an emergency, it shuts off or drastically reduces the blood supply to the muscles involved in the digestion, which it classifies as being of secondary importance in such a situation. In ancient times, such a response used to be a temporary happening. Things would return to normal soon and no one would even notice any change in the digestion pattern. Now the stress factor is in operation all the time. So symptoms showing malfunctioning of the digestion track become common.
The origin of stress
When some brain chemicals like serotonin are modified, they affect your mood. They are also a part of the network that sends signals to the gut. Low serotonin creates stress. But stress too lowers the serotonin level, creating digestion problems.
The body responds to a stressful situation by producing chemicals, whose job is to fight for survival. The adrenal glands secrete hormones called cortisol, epinephrine and norepinephrine. These are meant to achieve a short burst of energy and heightened clarity about the imminent danger. This fight-or-flight chemical response did save the ancient human beings every day from danger. Although such situations are almost non-existent today, the human body continues to react the same old way.
Pressures of modern life
The reasons behind the common stress we live with today include reaching the workplace late, not getting enough sleep, disagreements among the family members, health and financial problems and an inability to bond with the colleagues. Such stress is almost always chronic. You can never get rid of it completely. Something will always keep going wrong and you will hardly ever have a stress-free day.
But our body continues to respond like it did thousands of years back in the life-and-death situations. It cannot distinguish between the levels of danger posed by the different stressful situations. Thus, the modern human being is almost always in the fight or flight mode. That is bad for the body, especially for the digestion.
Sensitive digestive track
The human digestive tract is hypersensitive to any change. You modify your diet or start sleeping at different hours, your digestive system will respond to the change in different ways. Thus, anxiety and stress keep affecting the digestive behavior of the body all the time. This has been more or less accepted by everybody, so much so that most people are not aware of the anxiety-digestion equation.
The fight or flight response leads to the production of adrenaline on a large scale. This makes it possible for the body to marshal extra energy. Adrenaline mobilizes this energy from the glycogen in the sugar stores. The body processes nutrients at high rates, which is not good for it.
It may not be realistic to list all of the ways by which stress affects the digestion. Stress maintains high cortisol levels in the body throughout the day. These high cortisol levels
- Raise blood sugar
- Weaken the immune function and delay the healing or repair processes
- Upset the hormonal balance
- Create more depression and anxiety.
- Change the motility of the gastrointestinal tract and reduce the secretion of digestive juices.
- Cause inflammation and inhibit the regenerative ability of the intestinal lining.
- Spasms in the esophagus.
- Increase acid in the stomach leading to indigestion.
- Produce the feeling of nausea.
- Cause diarrhea or constipation.
The bacteria in the intestine are good and bad. The good ones help you to digest the food. Good and bad bacteria must be in the right proportion. Good bacteria are ‘good’ when they are confined to their goodness by the other good bacteria. If the bacterial balance changes, the stomach becomes a victim. Stress affects this bacterial balance and thereby prevents proper digestion and leads to digestive problems.
Apart from stress, a lack of sleep too can lead to the digestive problems. Sleep keeps the body at an optimum energy level. This ensures that the movement of food is at the right pace and the body’s hormone and enzyme production is normal. However, stress makes it harder to sleep. Sleep deprivation means more physical stress and digestive problems. The increased acids in the stomach have an adverse impact on the food digestion. They modify the food in the intestines and spell more stress. Indigestion produces gas, pain and discomfort. Gas causes chest pain, which triggers the stress attacks.
Thus, chronic stress routinely plays havoc with the digestive system. The symptoms of long-time stress include stomach pain, nausea, diarrhea or constipation. It can lead to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) in which cramps, abdominal pain, bloating, constipation and diarrhea may occur in varying intensities.
There are, of course, ways to manage stress in order to maintain proper digestion and keep your body healthy. Probably the best and the easiest way to do so is physical exercise. This releases the endorphins, relieves stress and changes your mood into a more cheerful one. Jogging is also very effective in dealing with stress.
Other ways to reduce stress include:
- Yoga, meditation, music, biofeedback and hypnosis.
- Talking with friends and loved ones about your stress. Talking with a therapist produces better results. Mental health professionals can teach new coping skills.
- Eating healthy foods, avoiding overeating and junk food and eating foods that are easy to digest.
- Rejecting smoking or alcohol to ease stress
- Rejecting drugs to deal with stress.
- Ensuring you get a sound sleep of 8 hours each day.
- Cultivating a social life so that you do not end up inside your house most of the time.
There is no way we can eliminate stress from the modern life. All that we can try and do is to protect ourselves from it by adopting various options suitable for us. We have to modify our eating habits and lifestyle suitably to ensure that we eat healthy and exercise continuously to be able to lead a stress-free life and to have a smooth digestion.
A Comfortable relationship with coach is the key to success.
Learning anything is never easy. If you try to learn something on your own, the process becomes more difficult and takes much longer. Persons who are neither curious nor endowed with the ability to reason out the things never learn much because many ideas connected with the subject they are learning do not occur to them at all.
Learning through books too is not easy. It becomes a prolonged process because even single ideas could take you long to grasp, understand and assimilate. And with books, you will go at your own pace. Going by the instinctive tendency of most human beings to keep the things in limbo, more often than not, you will tend to go much slower than when an expert in the subject is guiding you.
The coach teaches you everything
Wellness coaches are much more than a coach for a sporting or physical activity. The sports coach looks after your body, trains your body to perform at the peak of its ability, keeps improving the ability of the body by feeding it with the optimum mix of nutrients and motivates you to produce your best even in the most adverse situations.
Wellness coaches take this attitude to every problem in life and enable you to fight them. They may or may not tell you what to eat. They may or may not prescribe you an exercise schedule. But they will assess your mental capacities, the strength of your character, your inclinations and preferences, your emotional responses, your weaknesses and your fears. They will assess how your physical assets match these qualities. They will work towards improving the fitness levels of both your body and mind.
You got to trust them wholeheartedly
You have to trust them with all your innermost ideas, desires and dreams. The wellness coaches will then help you make the right choices that will have a positive impact on every sphere of your life. They will motivate you to work and attain these aims. It will be their goal to guide you, persuade, coax and compel you to work towards achieving what you, as a complete human entity, wish to achieve and can achieve.
But a wellness coach is not a mental healthcare professional. Although wellness coaches are well aware of the psychological problems like depression and anxiety, they are not experts in those fields. If they find that you are affected by any of these, they will advise you to consult a psychiatrist or a health professional that will help you overcome the problem with counseling and medications. They will know the experts in these respective fields and will advise you on selecting the one who is the right one for you.
Life is full of problems
A survey by the American College of Sports Medicine has found that “educated and experienced fitness professionals” constitute the most important fitness trend, having jumped from the third to the first place within a span of just one year. Personal trainers rose from the seventh to the third place.
People wish to live well. But in stark reality, they face several mental and physical health problems every day because of the combined effects of “overeating, under-exercising and having too little downtime.” So wellness coaches are becoming increasingly popular.
They do what our elders used to do earlier
Normally, such guidance should come to most of you through your parents and grandparents. They know you the best. They wish the best for you. And they know how to motivate you. But with the changing social ways and norms, this is progressively becoming more and more difficult, if not impossible. Now the grandparents hardly have a tender bond with the grandchildren. The parents may or may not have sufficient quality time for the children. And they could be too engrossed in their own life to be able to guide their children along the right lines.
So, most youngsters now need a wellness coach at some phase of life. They may need help in knowing how to trumpet their good points, on how to improve their career prospects, how to balance the demands with the available time, how to decide about the complex issues or how to lead a life without too much of stress
Open up your mind
This means you have to depend on a professional coach. You have to spend a lot of time with this person. And you have to open out your mind to them so that they can help you in the best possible way. You also have to trust them totally. So the person you select as your wellness coach should be similar to you in some ways. You should be able to strike a relationship that is comfortable in every way.
You should also have the confidence that the coach will help you to realize your potential. And the coach should be a person with a vision that inspires you. The coach should be able to charge you up with energy and determination. The coach should be inspiring.
The coach and the coached-Realistic goals
The coach will set a periodic goal that is realistic. They encourage you to do your utmost during the period and assess the results. The goals do not overawe you. You feel them to be challenging, but attainable. The coaches motivate you to put in sufficient effort. They will modify the program if the results are not along the expected lines. They will praise you and move on if you achieve the results. One important aspect of the working of the coach is that you begin to feel accountable and realize that you have to keep improving all the time.
Respond positively all the time
Trust is a major part of the coach-pupil relationship. You have to accept without reservations that whatever the coach says is for your good and the coach wants you to do it because you can do it. You must respond positively to all such calls for intense efforts and justify the coach’s confidence in you. The coach has the knowledge. You have the energy to do well. Coaches have to wield their knowledge with care and concern for you so that you emerge as a polished, bright figure in every way.
Sift the fact from fiction before you choose something to eat
Advice is free across the globe. The problem is most people do not know where to stop. They are more confident about their advice than any expert nutritionist coach or a health professional. They can make the craziest of statements without blinking an eyelid. And when they happen to be owners, promoters or agents of nutrition products, their advice can be more persuasive than the advertisements and obviously, more misleading. But many people hear such things and have no time to think about them or to assess their correctness. They just accept them at face value and are burdened with erroneous myths for long. Here are the top ten myths that every American should be aware of
Myth # 10: You can plan your own diet
Yes, of course! Every person has the right to plan his or her own diet. But, what do you do when your TV set doesn’t function normally? What do you do when your car has a breakdown? You seek an expert advice! Similarly, you may plan your own diet as long as your body is functioning well and you are in an overall good health. However, it is important that you seek the assistance of an expert nutritionist if you are facing any health issues, want to lose weight or get into perfect shape!
Myth # 9: If you want to remove fat cells from your body, you will have to have an invasive procedure such as liposuction
This is a myth. Liposuction is a procedure performed to remove the fat deposits in the body. It also reshapes some areas and reduces the weight. It removes some fat cells, thus reducing their total number in the body. However, to say that liposuction is the only way out to get rid of your excess fat would be wrong! You can avoid liposuction by sticking to a healthy, balanced diet. An expert nutritionist would be able to guide you in the process of losing fats without having to undergo the knife.
Myth # 8: If you do not maintain your diet, the fat cells you had lost earlier become double their size
This is a myth. Everything depends upon what and how much you eat. The fat cells or their number are not affected by what you ate and when you ate or the time gap during which you had been on a strict diet. The fact is when people lose weight, they just reduce the size of the fat cells their bodies have. The number of fat cells in a body is fixed around the age of 15 or 16 and stays constant throughout the life. If you lose weight, these cells lose their fat content. If you gain weight, they increase in size. The number of these cells can, however, grow if you gain so much weight that the cells are not able to support the fat. However, the cells can not grow to the double of their earlier size just because you had been dieting earlier and not doing the same now.
Myth # 7: Carbs should be your big source of calories
A diet high in non-fiber carbohydrates spells trouble for you by causing insulin and leptin resistance. Most high-carb diets are high in sugar and starch. The high-carb craze followed the low-fat mantra. Sugar replaced the fats. This sugar can lead to inflammation, metabolic dysfunctions, diabetes and heart disease. But the food industry continues to add fructose to everything. This kind of high-carb diet can disrupt your insulin and leptin signaling and result in type 2 diabetes.
Myth # 6: Low-fat foods prevent obesity and heart disease “Avoid fat” is the general admonish from everybody.
But this fat aversion is leading to ill health, metabolic dysfunctions and even obesity. People have to get 50 to 85 percent of their calories from fat. A very low-fat diet is not good at preventing heart diseases, obesity or cancer. Despite non-stop new researches, low-fat diets continue to be pushed as heart healthy by people with half knowledge! But the fact is most of the low-fat foods that are marketed are processed products containing sugar, corn syrup or artificial sweeteners. It is these products that are unhealthy, not the fats that you get from the natural sources. You may eat fats in limited amounts so that your body gets all the essential nutrients rather than eating the so-called low-fat foods.
Myth # 5: Eggs are bad for your heart
Some people think that eggs are bad because they can bring in heart diseases. Actually, they don’t. It is wrongly believed that the cholesterol in egg yolk is responsible for causing heart diseases. Eggs have no detrimental effect on the cholesterol levels. Egg consumption has no negative effect on the functions of the heart.
An egg has six grams of quality protein and nine essential amino acids. So, don’t hesitate to eat an egg a day!
Myth # 4: Whole grains are good for everyone
Unfortunately, all grains raise your insulin and leptin levels, increasing your risk of chronic diseases. Many whole grains have gluten, which triggers allergies.
Grains are low in nutrients compared to the foods like vegetables. By binding to the essential minerals in the intestine, the phytic acid in whole grains prevents their absorption. So, don’t get fooled by the claims that whole grains are all good for the health.
Myth # 3: Artificial sweeteners are safe replacements for diabetics and for promoting weight loss
People use artificial sweeteners to lose weight or because they are diabetic. But they cause more weight gain than regular sweeteners. They can do more harm to the body than sugar for diabetics. The sweet taste of the sweeteners can also increase the hunger. Artificial sweeteners also boost the craving for sweets. They cannot reduce the sugar consumption. They affect the body’s ability to count the calories consumed. Sugar is not healthy as it has empty calories and no essential nutrients. Fructose in the artificial sweeteners prepares us for rapid fat gain and metabolic diseases. Liver turns fructose into fat, which elevates triglyceride and cholesterol levels. It resists the action of insulin and leptin, thus promoting obesity, metabolic syndrome and diabetes.
Myth # 2: High omega-6 seed and vegetable oils are good for you
Foods processed in vegetable and seed oils are not good for your health; but most Americans consume them in big quantities. This greatly distorts the omega-3 to omega-6 ratio. Excessive omega-6 fats increases your risk of diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer and rheumatoid arthritis. Polyunsaturated fats like omega-3 lower your risk of heart disease. But all the types of polyunsaturated fats are not the same. The omega-6 fats can cause an inflammation of the arterial walls, which is a major reason behind most heart disease. So eat your omega-3s; but avoid the industrial seed and vegetable oils, which raise your risk of disease.
Myth # 1: Saturated fat is bad for you
Official agencies had recommended against eating too much of saturated fat way back in 1950s because it led to heart diseases. This unsubstantiated view was the generally accepted version for a very long time. This flawed decision has now been proved completely wrong. A 2010 study has established that there is absolutely no association between saturated fat and heart diseases.
In fact, saturated fats offer building blocks for the cell membranes and some hormones that are essential for the normal body functioning. It acts as a carrier for vitamins A, D, E and K. It is also needed to transform carotene into vitamin A and for absorbing several minerals. In fact, your heart’s best choice of fuel is saturated fat. The only warning here is to limit its intake. But we all know that there is no food on this earth that can remain good when consumed in excess and saturated fats is no exception. So, just discard the myth that saturated fat is the main villain for your health! It has a shade of grey with some health benefits. Avocados, cheese, butter, meat, egg yolks, coconut oil and raw macadamia are good source of saturated fat.
Exercise has had a Goldilocks problem, with experts debating just how much exercise is too little, too much or just the right amount to improve health and longevity. Two new, impressively large-scale studies provide some clarity, suggesting that the ideal dose of exercise for a long life is a bit more than many of us currently believe we should get, but less than many of us might expect. The studies also found that prolonged or intense exercise is unlikely to be harmful and could add years to people’s lives.
No one doubts, of course, that any amount of exercise is better than none. Like medicine, exercise is known to reduce risks for many diseases and premature death.
But unlike medicine, exercise does not come with dosing instructions. The current broad guidelines from governmental and health organizations call for 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week to build and maintain health and fitness.
But whether that amount of exercise represents the least amount that someone should do — the minimum recommended dose — or the ideal amount has not been certain.
Scientists also have not known whether there is a safe upper limit on exercise, beyond which its effects become potentially dangerous; and whether some intensities of exercise are more effective than others at prolonging lives.
So the new studies, both of which were published last week in JAMA Internal Medicine, helpfully tackle those questions.
In the broader of the two studies, researchers with the National Cancer Institute, Harvard University and other institutions gathered and pooled data about people’s exercise habits from six large, ongoing health surveys, winding up with information about more than 661,000 adults, most of them middle-aged.
Using this data, the researchers stratified the adults by their weekly exercise time, from those who did not exercise at all to those who worked out for 10 times the current recommendations or more (meaning that they exercised moderately for 25 hours per week or more).
Then they compared 14 years’ worth of death records for the group.
They found that, unsurprisingly, the people who did not exercise at all were at the highest risk of early death.
But those who exercised a little, not meeting the recommendations but doing something, lowered their risk of premature death by 20 percent.
Those who met the guidelines precisely, completing 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise, enjoyed greater longevity benefits and 31 percent less risk of dying during the 14-year period compared with those who never exercised.
The sweet spot for exercise benefits, however, came among those who tripled the recommended level of exercise, working out moderately, mostly by walking, for 450 minutes per week, or a little more than an hour per day. Those people were 39 percent less likely to die prematurely than people who never exercised.
At that point, the benefits plateaued, the researchers found, but they never significantly declined. Those few individuals engaging in 10 times or more the recommended exercise dose gained about the same reduction in mortality risk as people who simply met the guidelines. They did not gain significantly more health bang for all of those additional hours spent sweating. But they also did not increase their risk of dying young.
The other new study of exercise and mortality reached a somewhat similar conclusion about intensity. While a few recent studies have intimated that frequent, strenuous exercise might contribute to early mortality, the new study found the reverse.
For this study, Australian researchers closely examined health survey data for more than 200,000 Australian adults, determining how much time each person spent exercising and how much of that exercise qualified as vigorous, such as running instead of walking, or playing competitive singles tennis versus a sociable doubles game.
Then, as with the other study, they checked death statistics. And as in the other study, they found that meeting the exercise guidelines substantially reduced the risk of early death, even if someone’s exercise was moderate, such as walking.
But if someone engaged in even occasional vigorous exercise, he or she gained a small but not unimportant additional reduction in mortality. Those who spent up to 30 percent of their weekly exercise time in vigorous activities were 9 percent less likely to die prematurely than people who exercised for the same amount of time but always moderately, while those who spent more than 30 percent of their exercise time in strenuous activities gained an extra 13 percent reduction in early mortality, compared with people who never broke much of a sweat. The researchers did not note any increase in mortality, even among those few people completing the largest amounts of intense exercise.
Of course, these studies relied on people’s shaky recall of exercise habits and were not randomized experiments, so can’t prove that any exercise dose caused changes in mortality risk, only that exercise and death risks were associated.
Still, the associations were strong and consistent and the takeaway message seems straightforward, according to the researchers.
Anyone who is physically capable of activity should try to “reach at least 150 minutes of physical activity per week and have around 20 to 30 minutes of that be vigorous activity,” says Klaus Gebel, a senior research fellow at James Cook University in Cairns, Australia, who led the second study. And a larger dose, for those who are so inclined, does not seem to be unsafe, he said.