Are Stress and Comfort Foods Making You Sick?

Breakfast BreadEven if you don’t have digestive symptoms, health issues anywhere in your body may be stemming from your belly. This is due to a careful synergy within our bodies that connects our digestion to everything else.

I’d like to share this story from my book, The Stress Remedy, to illustrate how a fire in one’s belly can lead to major issues elsewhere…and how using this understanding of synergy can change the path of illness completely.

My patient Brad had been to a number of doctors…

…but none of them could help him with the ocular migraines that were making his life a misery. By the time Brad came to see me, he had started having other symptoms as well: sleep problems, acid reflux, and a general loss of energy and focus.

Tropical FishBrad had a fascinating job. He cared for the aquariums in several corporate headquarters, keeping their tropical fish alive. On our first visit, he lit up with enthusiasm, explaining how each aquarium was a delicate ecosystem that had to be cared for with extreme precision so that every element supported the fragile fish. The fish even had to be fed at precise times, or they might sicken and die.

When I heard about Brad’s job, I couldn’t help smiling.

“Brad,” I told him, “You understand how much care your fish need—but you need that care, too! Your body is also a delicate ecosystem, and your biology must also be fed at precise times. To achieve optimal health, you need to give yourself the same kind of care that you give your fish.”

Brad shook his head. “Wait,” he said. “Are you telling me that everything that is wrong with me is just about ‘balancing the ecosystem in my gut’?”

In fact, because of the way our bodies’ systems interrelate in a powerful synergy, Brad’s symptoms did all stem from disruptions in his “ecosystem.” For example, Brad’s irregular eating schedule burdened his adrenals, which in response released excess cortisol—a stress hormone that throws off normal digestion.

The comfort foods he chose when he did eat also disrupted Brad’s digestive system causing and aggravating leaky gut, an immune/digestive condition in which partially digested food leaks through permeable intestinal walls. This in turn triggered his immune system to release cytokines: chemicals normally intended to “zap” intruders to the body which sometimes mistakenly attack the body itself. Together, the cortisol and cytokines disrupted Brad’s immune system and his nervous system, resulting in his ocular migraines. The excess cortisol also produced his sleep disturbances.

So Brad began to clean up his ecosystem. He started eating six small, evenly spaced meals each day, 45 percent protein, 45 percent carb, and 10 percent healthy fat. He made sure to get seven or eight hours sleep each night and to exercise four times a week.

Brad also started working on healing leaky gut, which was provoking an immune response and creating sensitivities to a number of foods, including gluten, dairy, and soy. Stress and gluten had given Brad leaky gut, which in turn was responsible for his acid reflux.

So Brad cut the problem foods out of his diet while taking glutamine and other supplements that helped his leaky gut to heal. Restoring Brad’s gut integrity reduced another source of inflammation, which also helped to counteract his migraines.

Within three months, Brad’s symptom had disappeared completely. He stands as a striking example of how stress can disrupt our body’s synergy to produce a plethora of seemingly unrelated symptoms—and how restoring our body’s synergy can restore us to optimal health.

Adapted from The Stress Remedy: Master Your Body’s Synergy and Optimize Your Health, a book by Doni Wilson, N.D., available at TheStressRemedy.com, Amazon, iBooks and Kindle.