Thanksgiving is coming up in a couple of days here in the United States.
It's one of my favorite holidays because it's purpose is spending time with friends and family, eating a nice meal, and ideally expressing gratitude what we have in our lives. It's an innately positive experience, even when we factor in the family dynamics we might be dealing with. (-;
While it's nice to have a day focused on expressing our gratitude, practicing gratitude on a daily basis has many positive effects, some of which you may surprise you.
First, though, I'd like to give a little explanation about practicing gratitude, while understanding that it can take many different forms.
What is a gratitude practice?
Inflammatory bowel syndrome...what is it?
Anyone that's diagnosed with it, would say it's frustrating, because it isn't really a diagnosis.
Inflammatory bowel syndrome, or IBS, is the diagnosis you're given when everything else has been ruled out. It's a collection of symptoms with an origin that can't be identified. 40% of people that visit the doctor report gastrointestinal problems. 60 million Americans suffer from IBS and those are only those that have received the "diagnosis."
Symptoms may include:
Symptoms may also include headaches, fatigue, insomnia, and/or muscle pain.
To receive a diagnosis of IBS, the symptoms are chronic, occurring for at least three to six months.
What causes IBS?
Awareness is the first step to battling chronic stress. Have you been living your life at the same frantic pace for so long that it feels normal for you?
Are your struggling with chronic stress?
These are all symptoms of chronic stress.
I just spent an hour making dinner. It's one of my favorite new recipes, chipotle butternut squash and black bean tostadas. I've also made my favorite kale and strawberry salad. The meal checks all the boxes for me. It has plenty of vegetables, it's flavorful, and it's filling. Not only that, for my lunch the next day, I'll reheat a tostada and plop a fried egg on top. Delicious!
I set the table, since everyone's been in other parts of the house doing their thing. I'm fine with that, since I go into a meditative state when I cook, or sometimes I listen to podcasts or my music. I'll add one more thing: I'm sort of messy when I cook and my husband almost always cleans up after dinner. And we both want the kids to help more with the clen up. We agree on that point.
I call everyone to dinner and the first thing that happens is my husband states adamantly, "You kids are cleaning up tonight." Chaos ensues. My daughter has homework, my son already took out the garbage, plus he "always helps," and I get irritated because I just want everyone to enjoy the meal, especially me. Figure out the clean up later, after all, even if it's a mess, it doesn't take nearly as much time as making the meal.
And the worst part is that I know stress and conflict isn't good for digestion!
It makes intuitive sense that chronic stress would impact our health. Sometimes we can feel the physical manifestation of stress in our gut, that icky feeling in the pit of our stomach.
Yet many of us have become so accustomed to hectic lifestyles, that our baseline of stress is much too high and we may not even notice how stress is effecting us.
What Do You Consider Stress?
There are two forms of stress:
Stress can be from a real or perceived threat. Your nervous system is sounding an alarm and readying the body to respond quickly.
When I taught childbirth preparation classes, I talked about this quite a lot. When the body or mind senses a threat, non essential processes come to a halt. Back then I was talking about labor coming to a halt with stress, now I focus more on the effects of stress on digestion, which also can come to a halt with stress.
In both cases, what we think about, who is with us, and our psychological and physical histories play a part in how our systems function.
Stress is supposed to be a short term solution to increase our chances of survival, not a long term plan.
Ten Ways Stress Impacts Our Health
This week, I am presenting several stories, or case studies of how food can impact the behavior of children.
The reason I'm talking about children is first because that's how I came to focus on the impact of food choices and second because the gut-brain connection is more obvious in children because they are less capable of filtering their what they're feeling.
I begin with my story, but be sure to scroll down to my interview with Matt Wright. It's interesting to here his story of how his childhood behavior issues were solved by food changes from his perspective as an adult.
A little bit about the gut-brain connection.
I'll go deeper into the gut-brain connection in a future blog post, but I want to provide some background for the stories I'm telling now.
The gut is being considered the second brain. It has more neurons than the brain and the spinal cord put together. Neurons communicate and transmit information throughout the body. It was thought that the brain controlled the action of the neurons in the body, but now we know that they are controlled in the gut as well.
Commit to "A Quiet Space" in your life each day.
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This article was originally posted on April 5, 2017. If you are newer to reading my weekly blog, you may not know that I travelled the world with my family for the 2016-17 school year. These are my thoughts on meditation, partly related to what I learned while traveling. Enjoy!
We were wandering around the old town of Granada. It's fun to get lost in these old areas, because around each corner could be a beautiful square or church.
It's hard not to be curious about what's inside, when standing outside a huge, thick, wooden door.
How often do most of us take time during the day to just be?
This part's exciting...at least to me. I guess I'm a bit of a nerd.
Simple lifestyle changes go a long way in reducing chronic, low-level inflammation.
As I wrote about a few weeks ago, here, chronic, low-level inflammation plays a part in many disorders, such as, high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer, dementia, Alzheimer's, arthritis and more.
When chronic, low-level inflammation shows itself as an auto-immune disease, your body is unable to turn the immune system off. That's basically what's happening before we ever get to a disease state.
The three most common symptoms of chronic, low-level inflammation, are brain-related, joint-related, and digestive system-related. Read more here!
The first two almost always lead back to the digestive system, or gut, even if you don't have any digestive system symptoms.
The three main causes of chronic, low level inflammation are stress, damage to the digestive system, and toxic overload from environment factors. Read more here.
As I wrote in last weeks post, stress and toxic overload, also cause damage to the gut. In fact, researchers are now linking 90% of chronic diseases to an unhealthy gut.
Think about it, when you're feeling stressed, worried, or anxious, where do you feel it? If you're like me, it's right in the pit of your stomach.
How can you fix it?
It's easier than you think, for the most part!
Have you recognized some of the symptoms of chronic, low-grade inflammation in yourself?
If you haven't read my last two articles on inflammation, click here for a description of chronic inflammation and click here for my article on the symptoms of chronic inflammation.
So, what causes chronic, low-level inflammation?
I don't usually eat gluten containing foods much. But this year I hosted Thanksgiving, and I love good old fashioned bread stuffing. My favorite Thanksgiving memories are the smells of onion and celery being sautéed in butter first thing in the morning.
So since I love bread stuffing so much, I made a double batch because I DID NOT WANT TO RUN OUT!
I didn't run out, in fact I had enough for leftovers for at least one dinner and probably a lunch, too.
By Sunday, I woke up with a horrible headache. The kind of headache that doesn't go away with a cup of coffee and doesn't go away by sleeping it off, either.
I knew that it was the gluten, so I swore it off. Again!
I was pretty successful until the Christmas holiday rolled around. It's just too easy to arrive at a holiday party starved and make bad food choices.
So between eating those yummy crackers and cheese, and staying up later than I like, I ended up with the two day headache again the day after Christmas.
Doesn't everyone get headaches?
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Hi, I’m Crystal!