Having optimal Gut health will allow us to be at the “top of our game” at work. Here are the issues that usually cause our gut to become out of balance:
- What you are eating
- How you are handling stress
During moments of high stress, your gut health can be negatively impacted. For me, it was a lot easier to “check out” and not feel. During that time, I also cared a lot less about what the quality or kinds of food I was eating. I was usually more focused on eating and going back to work ASAP. Eating poorly during moments of high stress was probably not the best solution. When I ate like that, I would end up dealing with issues like bloating and gas. When that happened to me, it was a sign that I was taking on a lot of stress, and it was time to slow down.
Stress and Bad Food
If you are like me, then you may decide to use food as a stress reliever and decide to run for that bag of potato chips from the vending machine. Eating junk food is a bad idea because this will put more stress on your gut by causing inflammation in the G.I. tract. Stress and junk food will in turn cause you to have more have more anxiety and also end up having more gut issues like diarrhea, gas or bloating? Are you starting to see the mind-body connection here?
The Mind/Gut Connection
Ever wonder why people talk about a “gut reaction”? Or my “gut” is telling me to handle this differently? People say this as if the gut has an intuition or are a 2nd brain. That’s not too far from the truth. The central nervous system is made up of the spinal cord and the brain. It receives signals from the peripheral nervous system and handles everything we do with our body. It’s a part of the body that is called the central nervous system. The longest cranial nerve in our body is called the vagus nerve, and it runs from the hypothalamus to the intestines. The CNS also reaches the Enteric Nervous System also known as the 2nd brain which is why we feel emotions in the gut. There actually over 100 million neurons in the gut that explains why we may get an upset stomach. High amounts of serotonin are released when our body comes into contact with irritating or even dangerous/spoiled foods and can trigger things like diarrhea and vomiting.
The mind/gut connection makes it critically important to eat not only the right foods but also managing your stress levels. Eating well is great, but if you are worried sick about job performance or getting that next promotion, then your gut health may suffer from that tremendous amount of stress you are putting on yourself.
Craving Junk Food
If you are seriously thinking of making a run for a bag of junk food during moments of high stress then try to substitute it for something else like apple chips or kale chips. If I try to resist the urge with self-control alone, then I will more than likely “crash and burn” and bury my face in the bag of potato chips. I must stress to you that if you have a habit of eating the wrong foods during moments of stress then try to slowly ween yourself off eating bad foods. Trying to change your diet/lifestyle overnight usually doesn’t work. Most diets want you to use willpower to change your diet right away. The problem with that concept is that we are creatures of habit, and we resist sudden changes that only cause us stress. Yes, being on a diet is a stressful event. It’s important to make small changes in your diet over time rather than huge sweeping changes. It will help in correcting your diet over the long term rather than just eating right for a couple of months and then going back to eating an unhealthy diet again.
How Poor Gut Health can impact you at work
Poor gut health over time manifests in people in different ways. Gut issues can lead to symptoms such as high blood pressure, anxiety, and fatigue just to name a few. Over time, issues like this will end up having severe impacts on your ability to perform well at work. Stress at work can have an adverse effect on your gut and finding ways to reduce stress is important. If you are having a disagreement with a co-worker, then the best thing to do is to voice that and not to withhold those concerns. When we hold our negative feelings inside this also creates a stressful event. Addressing these concerns might also help that co-worker better understand your point of view. If you are overwhelmed with your workload, then find more efficient ways to manage your time. It might also be ok to accept only the fact that you won’t be able to get all of your work done on a given day. If you work with other co-workers, maybe it’s time to ask for help? If you are a small business owner, perhaps consider investing in a virtual assistant? Whatever the case, managing your stress over the long term will help you be more productive at work. It will also keep your gut healthy which will also allow you to keep more focus on your job and less concern about being fatigued.
It’s important to note that food sensitivities may also play a role in impacting your gut and your overall health. There are ways to discern if this is the case, but it would involve a closer look at your symptoms and what types of foods you are eating.
In closing, your gut health really impacts every area of your life, not just your work performance. Take care of your gut and it will take care of you!
Written by Sayed Shah, MD, Mandala Integrative Medicine
The Second Brain by Michael Gershon, MD
The Mind-Gut Connection by Emeran Mayer, MD