Hormones you produce while stressed alter the function of intestinal cells and increase permeability of the small intestine.
Leaky gut is probably a term you are familiar with. It is a contributing factor to a range of health problems, including allergies, autoimmune disease and fatigue. An excessively permeable gut allows too much waste from the intestines to enter the bloodstream and it compromises nutrient absorption across the gut lining into the bloodstream.
The most well known factors to cause leaky gut are gluten, alcohol and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Unfortunately, stress is another big contributor. A recent article in the journal Neurogastroenterology explains how this works.
Psychological stress causes the release of a hormone called corticotropin releasing hormone. This hormone is made in the hypothalamus of the brain. It triggers the pituitary gland of the brain to release the hormone called ACTH (Adreno Cortico Tropic Hormone). That stimulates the adrenal glands to secrete cortisol. You are probably familiar with cortisol. It is commonly referred to as a stress hormone because we know stressed people have more of it in their bloodstream.
New research has shown that corticotropin releasing hormone activates mast cells in the small intestine. Mast cells are a type of white blood cell. It is the mast cells that make the gut more permeable. This particular study was conducted on people who were asked to give a speech in public. Their stress hormones were subsequently tested, as was the permeability of their gut.
Managing stress is such a critical component of looking after your overall health. It is so important to take time out from your busy life and do things that make you happy, and spend time with people you love.
For more information about leaky gut see the book Healing Autoimmune Disease: A plan to help your immune system and reduce inflammation.
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