Here is an excerpt from my upcoming e-book. I’m excited to share with the world! Please let me know your thoughts and feedback. Thank you for reading!!
What Is Stress Belly?
Stress belly can be one of two things. The first is that beautiful mound of fatty tissue around the gut area that lots of people have. It is otherwise known as:
– beer belly
– pot belly
– spare tire
– arm shelf
– love handle
Growing up hearing the ladies of my family and our community complain about how ‘all the weight goes right to their belly and thighs’ was always so frustrating. I remember thinking how lucky they were to have curves like a real woman should and keeping my fingers crossed for their figures. I heard a lot of constant complaining about this wonder belly and I couldn’t understand why this was the case. Why didn’t it go to more flattering areas where we would like it to go? And why did our ancestors not have these big, beautiful bellies? This curiosity followed me all the way through PA school and after graduation.
I then started noticing that this belly was not just reserved for women, but men had it too! This nice bump at the stomach area, otherwise known as abdominal obesity or truncal obesity, was becoming a trend among both genders. I continued wondering why there were so many so called pot bellied folks in our country.
At one point before PA school, my sister mentioned cortisol-controlling supplements that helped decrease the amount of fat in the belly. I hadn’t learned much about it; I just knew cortisol was produced when you were in ‘fight or flight’ mode. Now after my 13 plus years in medicine, I have noticed that this is probably one of the most prevalent issues in America and now it’s going to Mexico and spreading around the world! The other thing I noticed was when people decreased their stress, whether it was through exercise or removing themselves from a toxic situation, their bellies faded too.
I dug back into my Endocrinology notes where we talked about cortisol and remembered that it was connected to something called Cushings disease or Cushings syndrome. This is a disorder where too much cortisol is produced from a pituitary tumor or taking too many steroids for different conditions like asthma, eczema, back pain, and others. Now don’t go thinking that you have a brain tumor or you’ve overdosed on steroids. Steroids can be lifesavers, so if your medical provider thinks you need them, take them. Cushings is a super rare disease. Super rare.
In modern day society, we produce cortisol on a daily basis simply through living our lives. A typical day, if I remember correctly goes like this: wake up after a few hits to the snooze button, roll over, pick up smart phone, check email, text, facebook, rise from bed, get in shower, think about all the exciting things you get to do this weekend while in shower, get out, dry off, brush teeth, prepare coffee/breakfast/nothing for sustenance, get dressed, feed dog, lock up, drive to work on autopilot, work through patients or emails or spreadsheets, go to lunch, gobble down lunch in 5- 10 minutes or while still working on your work, finish up the day, get in car, drive home on autopilot, prepare dinner, sit and watch tv while eating dinner, laugh, cry, get angry or sad at the stuff on the rectangle box, aka the tv, brush teeth, go to sleep, wake up and repeat. For many of you, this routine has about 15-100 more steps because it involves kids or a partner and even less time to breathe and practice some self-care. So in all of this madness, we’re usually not breathing properly, taking time to just sit and chill or letting the body and mind go into the ‘rest and digest’ state, because lets be honest, even when you’re sleeping you’re going over the days events or future happenings in your dreams or nightmares.
Stress Belly Definition Two
Almost every Monday in junior high and most of high school I stayed home ‘sick’. I would wake up and claim I had a stomachache or a headache or both. These were easy ones to claim and mom and dad didn’t question my pain. I can’t say that I actually had any kind of real ailment, actually I diagnose this type of issue regularly as functional abdominal pain.
I also have a best friend who can’t move her bowels whenever she goes on vacation. TMI, maybe, but I don’t think this is uncommon. We’ve created a mantra to help her back to wellness during these times.
There are countless examples of irritable bowel, functional abdominal pain, bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhea, reflux, gallstones overall GI upset and most of them come up with nothing on x-rays or CT scans or labs. This is the second type of stress belly. There is nothing quantifiable about it, but we’ve probably all fallen prey to this ailment at one point in our lives.
When we get stressed, all types of stress, our guts take most of the burden. In gastrointestinal reflux, for example, heartburn symptoms are known to increase with a physiological stressor (3). Also, about 40% of people with irritable bowel syndrome also have anxiety or depression, so there is definitely a correlation between the mind and gut.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Whether you’re concerned about your love handle or your constant abdominal issues, the stress-belly solution can help you.’
Image courtesy of jesadaphorn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net