The Real Cause of Back Pain, Headaches and Indigestion

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By David Blyweiss, M.D., Advanced Natural Wellness

January 6, 2016

  • Why are back pain, digestive problems and weight gain plaguing you?
  • 4 signs that you’re stressed out
  • Stay calm and soothe your stress

Does your neck or back seem to ache constantly? Do you have digestive issues that keep gut tied up in knots? Are you putting on more weight than you would like?

I hear symptoms like these day in and day out. Some folks fret over them, concerned that they have a serious health condition. Others simply view these changes as part of the aging process, something they just have to live with.

Well, the problem – and the cure – may be much simpler than you might think.

You see, today’s modern world is full of stressors. But our bodies aren’t built to be stressed out all of the time. Our ancestors only had to deal with the occasional saber-toothed tiger. We’re bombarded with stressors all day long.

These stressors produce a “fight or flight” response, a built-in reaction that ensures our survival, the same reaction triggered on running into the tiger of old. The problem is, all of that stress isn’t just affecting your mental and emotional well-being. It’s also turning your body against you.

4 Signs that You’re Stressed Out

Back and neck pain. As part of the “fight or flight” response, your body’s muscles tense up. This is your body’s way of preparing either to stand and protect itself (fight), or run away (flight).

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However, when you’re in a constant state of stress, these muscles remain tense and tight.

This can leave your back and neck feeling stiff and sore, making it hard to stay active. And if you start worrying about the cause of the pain, it can make things even worse. It just causes more stress, making the muscles even tighter and increasing the severity of the pain.

Frequent headaches. The “fight of flight” response also releases chemicals in your brain. These can cause vascular changes in your brain’s blood vessels. This, in turn, can trigger a stress headache or migraine.

Those tight muscles in the back, neck and scalp only add to it. Plus, people who are stressed often clench their jaws. Others tend to grind their teeth. Any single one of these factors can be the spark that sets off a headache.

Weight gain. Have you ever noticed that you eat more when you’re stressed? That’s because your stress hormone, cortisol, influences your eating habits.

You see, a constant release of cortisol increases blood sugar. At the same time it counteracts insulin and causes carbohydrate cravings. But that’s not all it does. Stress also interferes with the balance of your two hunger hormones, ghrelen (the “I’m hungry” hormone) and leptin (the “I’m full” hormone.)

When you put all of these hormonal disruptions together, it can leave you with a fierce appetite and cravings that expand your waistline.

Digestive complaints. Stress not only affects your eating habits. It can also have an unhealthy impact on your digestive system.

People who carry high levels of stress tend to experience general discomfort after meals. They are also more likely to develop acid reflux and irritable bowel syndrome.

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This is due to a simple bidirectional pathway called the “gut-brain axis.” Simply put, your gut contains a network of neurons that are connected to your brain. The connection is so intrinsic that scientists often call the gut our “second brain.”

In other words, what happens in your gut affects your brain… and what happens in your brain affects your gut.

Stay Calm and Soothe Your Stress

Deep breathing exercises, meditation and getting a good night’s sleep are three things you can immediately start doing to help reduce your stress levels. Acupuncture and massage therapy are also great stress relievers.

But I find that many of my patients respond best to a structured Hatha yoga program.

This is the type of yoga most practiced here in the U.S. The reason I like it is because it not only promotes physical health, it also includes breathing techniques and meditation to help you de-stress and gain mental clarity.

I believe it’s this mind-body connection that makes it so effective when it comes to developing a natural peace of mind to help you overcome stressful events in your life.

Just as important, practicing yoga can offset many of the damaging health effects that come with stress, anxiety and negative feelings.

There are also a few supplements that can help.

One of my favorite stress busters is rhodiola rosea. That’s what I take when I’m under pressure.

It also guards against stress-induced health problems by preventing the breakdown of important brain chemicals. If stress has you off your game, I recommend taking 100 to 300 mg of a standardized supplement one to three times per day.

Another favorite of mine is green tea. L-theanine, one of the key nutrients in tea, boosts levels of a neurotransmitter called GABA. GABA acts as a natural relaxant that works by muffling neuronal activity in the brain and soothing frazzled nerve cells.

It also has a profound effect on the release of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin. These are “feel good” hormones that produce a sense of well-being. And that can go a long way when it comes to getting through those stressful days.

Look for a green tea extract that’s standardized to contain a minimum of 40% catechins and 60% polyphenols.

SOURCES:

Carragee EJ, et al. Prospective controlled study of the development of lower back pain in previously asymptomatic subjects undergoing experimental discography. Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2004 May 15;29(10):1112-7.

Schramm SH, et al. The association between stress and headache: A longitudinal population-based study. Cephalalgia. 2015 Sep;35(10):853-63.

Epel ES, et al. Stress and body shape: stress-induced cortisol secretion is consistently greater among women with central fat. Psychosom Med. 2000 Sep-Oct;62(5):623-32

Jaremka LM, et al. Interpersonal Stressors Predict Ghrelin and Leptin Levels in Women. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2014 Oct; 0: 178–188.

Konturek PC, et al. Stress and the gut: pathophysiology, clinical consequences, diagnostic approach and treatment options. J Physiol Pharmacol. 2011 Dec;62(6):591-9.

Kiecolt-Glaser JK, et al. Stress, inflammation, and yoga practice. Psychosom Med. 2010 Feb;72(2):113-21.

Panossian A. Rosenroot (Rhodiola rosea): traditional use, chemical composition, pharmacology and clinical efficacy. Phytomedicine. 2010;17:481-493.

Nathan PJ, et al. The neuropharmacology of L-theanine(N-ethyl-L-glutamine): a possible neuroprotective and cognitive enhancing agent. J Herb Pharmacother. 2006;6(2):21-30.

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