MTHFR and the Stress-Gut Connection – Part II

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Stress in our lives creates stress in our guts.  That is a known and predictable fact of science. What is less clear, and what is the focus of this investigation, is to uncover just how those effects of stress show up in other parts of our bodies.  I would like to remind you that stress in any form, whether it be physical, mental, or chemical stress, causes the release of adrenalin directly into the gut.  This topic was covered in the first video.

The first video showed us that stress increases adrenalin in the gut, and this allows gut bacteria to grow rapidly, often making us feel sick.  This suggests that one of the main reasons people get sick when they take vitamins, is that they have a gut problem that hasn’t been fixed.  Until the gut is functioning properly, the body won’t receive all the benefit from vitamins – and they actually can make you sick!  In order to understand more about the stress-gut connection, we need to ask a couple of important questions.  First, how does stress impact the integrity of the gut wall?  And second, how do other SNPs besides ACE, COMT, GAD, MAO, and MTHFR play a role in the stress-gut connection?  These and other questions will be answered below.

If you want to know how stress is impacting someone’s life, just ask them how their digestion is working.  Chances are that if they have a problem handling stress then they will have problem with their digestion (or their brain).  High stress triggers the release of high levels of catecholamines directly into the bloodstream and the gut.  Those with MAO, COMT, ACE, GAD, MTHFR and other SNPS simply have a more difficult time dealing with stress.  This difficulty handling stress often shows up as:

  • bloating
  • pain
  • gas
  • diarrhea
  • constipation
  • irritable bowel
  • anxiety
  • insomnia
  • depression
  • rage
  • indigestion
  • acid reflux
  • and much more…

About 70% of our immune system lives inside the wall of the gut.  This is why the health of the gut is so important to the rest of our body, esp. when we are dealing with autoimmune problems, inflammation, infections, etc.  The gut immune cells, also known as gut associated lymphatic tissue (or GALT) live inside special lymph nodes called Peyer’s Patches.  The reason people say that 70% of the immune system lives inside the gut is that if you counted up all the lymph nodes in the body, about 70% of them would be found in Peyer’s Patches.  Peyer’s Patches function as the white blood cell headquarters keeping our gut working properly.  These Peyer’s Patches are necessary to keep our gut from leaking.  They do this mainly by producing something called SIgA.  SIgA may be familiar to you because it is one of the categories tested for on the common Variant Reports which use 23andme data.

SIgA is more than just a simple immuglobulin.  It is the glue that maintains the integrity of the gut wall.  SIgA acts like a barb-wire fence to keep bacteria and antigens that come from our diet from leaking into the body.  With good SIgA levels the body is much less likely to have leaky gut and gut-brain inflammation.  When SIgA levels drop as happens when we experience chronic stress, the gut becomes much less functional. Chronic stress involves elevations of cortisol, and cortisol plays a big role in disturbing our sleep, our immune system, and especially our digestion.  High stress that elevates cortisol can come from chronic illness, athletic overtraining, restrictive and imbalanced diets, and pyschological stressors at home or at work.

Regardless of what is causing the cortisol to rise, the effect on the gut is always the same! Cortisol INHIBITS the production of SIgA which weakens our mucosal defenses, leading to leaky gut symptoms. In addition, chronic stress forces blood into our muscles and away from our gut wall, leading to even more gut-barrier dysfunction.  This blood flow problem can become so bad that ulcers may develop in the stomach and areas of the intestine may be damaged by hypoxia. If that weren’t enough, stress also changes how blood flows to the skin.  We know that the same stress hormones which reduce blood flow to the gut also reduce blood circulation to the skin.  This can show up as Raynaud’s syndrome  or other chronic blood flow problems which are all side effects of excess catecholamines in the system.

While this information may be a lot to take in, it doesn’t have to be overwhelming.  The take home message is that stress hurts our gut and our digestion.  We all know that.  And this is made worse with SNPs for IgA.  People with IgA genes will be the first to feel digestive upset, pain and discomfort in response to stress.  In these individuals especially it is important to keep excess stress under control so the gut can do its job.  Regardless of your genes, lowering stress and managing cortisol levels appropriately (too big of an idea to include in this post) will greatly improve digestion.  Leaky gut is a big deal and people with high cortisol, high stress, and the related SNPs (MAO, COMT, IgA, ACE…) need to be extra diligent and careful.

Yours in Health,

Dr. Rostenberg

By studying the current peer-reviewed research, Dr. Rostenberg has discovered powerful, natural strategies to restore your gut and heal your body.  He can help you uncover the genetic or root causes of your health problem and find a natural solution!  If you would like help with your methylation genetics to improve your gut function and reduce/eliminate your symptoms, please contact Dr. Rostenberg at Red Mountain Natural Medicine today. Phone 208-322-7755. Email redmountainclinic@gmail.com. Website http://www.redmountainclinic.com

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