Let’s take a trip down memory lane to Junior high biology class. Do you remember learning about our nervous system? Parasympathetic VS sympathetic systems?
These 2 nervous systems explain everything you need to know about weight gain and fatigue! Why when you are stressed, you have digestive problems and get more gassy and bloated. Why, when you are stressed, you gain weight- especially around your midsection and belly no matter what weight loss efforts you have implemented, nothing seems to battle the bulge. Why, you feel and look exhausted no matter how much sleep you get. Why you are constantly getting injured or are in chronic pain and it isn’t healing as it should. And most importantly, what we can do about all of this.
Sympathetic Nervous system otherwise known as “ Fight or Flight”.
When we are stressed, or are put under stressful situations ( Even though we can’t admit we are necessarily stressed, and we are good, and we got this, and we are fine and we will be ok) our body releases cortisol and adrenaline from our adrenal glands. The role of these hormones are to keep us going in the midst of stress. We are however only equipped with so many resources to allow us to keep going for so long, until we crash and burn because our cortisol and adrenaline levels can no longer be kept up with. This is known as the adrenal fatigue we have touched on previously. We are not equipped to run from a bear 24/7. God hasn’t built us that way, to have the organs and hormones on endless supply to accommodate this crazy world we live in. We run out of resources very quickly if we push and push our bodies to no end. This is when we begin getting injured and end up with chronic diseases as a result of too much “stress” on the body without the ability to cope with it. No different than your car breaking down after you ran on it without changing the oil, getting it serviced, etc tec. WHY this is of relevance to you, is because, when we are under stress our blood vessels dilate, our core body temperature increases, our digestive system shuts down, our repairing and restorative mechanisms are halted and we are running on pure adrenaline to survive. When we are surviving, we are hoarding all our resources and food and fuel to store it in times of need for quick energy. Everything we eat becomes stored in case we will need fuel at a later date. We are literally wired to survive.
Parasympathetic Nervous system otherwise known as “ Rest and Digest”. This is the complete opposite of the sympathetic system. This is where we are meant to rejuvenate, relax, repair and regenerate. Our body replenishes nutrient stores, hormone levels, neurotransmitters, growth hormone and more while we are in this state. Our digestive system is working, HCL is flowing, enzymes are working to help us break down our food, our intestines and bowels are undergoing peristalsis and movement and all is well. We are balanced here, calm, our muscles are relaxed, heart rate and breathing rate and pulse rate are low. We aren’t hoarding resources here, our bodies aren’t holding onto food and calories, pressure is taken off our heart and our adrenal glands are having a holiday.
Now, the kicker is, we cannot be in both systems at once. We cannot be running from a bear and eating while we run and expect our digestive system to work for us. This is why when we are stressed and go go go and eat on the run, we get heartburn and acid reflux along with gas and bloating and perhaps diarrhea or constipation. Why when we are stressed we get injured and our body doesn’t heal- because we haven’t given it the restorative and regenerative attention our body needs. Why when you are running on very little sleep or are tossing and turning, that you wake up exhausted. You haven’t allowed the body ample time to get out of 1 nervous system and into the next system properly so both functions of the body and nervous system could be appreciated. It is so important to appreciate the two systems for what they are, and respect the processes and bodily functions that take place in each. We need our bodies to respond under a state of stress, but we also need to place an importance on the value of good restful deep sleep. We must respect our digestive system and the enzymes that are responsible for breaking down our food and assimilating it so we use it for energy. It would be a shame to compromise this process because we are too busy. All this requires is 10 minutes to sit down, focus on eating, on chewing your food properly and give your mealtime the quiet it deserves. In the midst of a stressful situation, simply go to a quiet room, heck a bathroom will suffice if you are out and about, turn the lights off and do 10 deep belly breaths. This calmness will allow a dial down of sympathetic to parasympathetic system and help recharge those batteries.