Digestive Health Series Part 5: Stress and SIBO

Hello again:

Here we go on the last bit before we get into how to recover from these issues.

Low acid can also play a significant role in the development of SIBO and or SIFO , or Small Intestinal Bacterial and/or Fungal Overgrowth, a very annoying problem where the normal gut bugs that are supposed to only inhabit the large intestine, begin to be active in the small intestine…lots of bloating, gas, discomfort, distention and a general increase in toxicity burdens.

This is often related to stress being high for long periods of time, and even concussions, which cause a down-regulation of the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve is the 1oth cranial nerve, which starts inside the skull in the bottom of the brain stem, and travels to the entire chest and gut. It is the opposite of fight and flight and is called the rest and digest nerve because it calms us down and regulates digestion. High stress can result in low vagus function, thus less stomach acid and other digestive enzymes, altered gut motility and more inflammation and food reactions.

High stress also causes increased cortisol production which over time tends to create elevations of histamine in the gut and systemically. This happens because chronically elevated cortisol will cause cell death of the immune cells that normally kill infections, which allows the expansion of the immune cells that make histamine. Histamine elevations can cause nausea, hyper acid production, reflux, headaches, constipation, diarrhea, brain fog and more. You might suspect high histamine causing high acid if you have known seasonal allergies and/or food reactivities and allergies, a history of hives, asthma, and especially if you try the stomach acid supplement trial and it does not help or makes things worse. If that happens, you should either speak with me or an allergist about how to lower histamine and what lab tests might be helpful.

The vagus nerve also controls the junction of the small and large intestine, and under stress, this junction may not work correctly and remain open too long. This results in undigested and rotting food full of large intestine bacteria/yeast coming back into the small intestine where the bacteria and fungus/yeast do not belong, and we get overgrowth of these guys where we do not want them because the vast majority of our gut bacteria belong in the large intestine, not the small. This results in really bad bloating, gas and discomfort, and perhaps constipation with periods of loose stools or vice versa, almost no matter what we eat.

A word on GERD: Gastro-esophageal reflux disorder is when the lower esophageal sphincter remains open and allows stomach contents to rise up into the esophagus…and this hurts and burns. Since the vagus nerve also controls the LES (lower esophageal sphincter), if the vagus nerve tone is low, then this contributes to reflux. Also, too little acid can relax the LES also as can certain foods. Chronic inflammation of the esophagus is a serious condition that may need both medical and natural care together, however, start with the remedies we will go over in the next and final newsletter and if things don’t clear up, see your gastroenterologist for a further work-up, especially if you have any trouble swallowing.

Bottom Line: In the next and last newsletter on this subject, we will go over the steps you can try at home to alleviate all of these issues that we covered in Part 1 through 5, and these issues involve more than stomach acid supplements. See you next week!

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