Achieve and Perform without GI Issues
Deadlines, Performance and GI Issues. Could they be Interconnected?
Are you constantly running toward that next deadline or project? Do you spend an overabundance of time and emotional means meeting the demands of your work responsibilities and trying to keep up with all the necessities of life? Are you feeling worked to the core and on the verge of burn out?
At the same time are you experiencing digestive upset including constipation, diarrhea, nausea, fatigue, stomach cramps, or acid reflux?
If you answered yes to these questions, you are most definitely going to want to read on.
The Mechanics and Risks of Being a Type-A Person
Verywellmind.com (1) defines a type-A achiever as hard-driving workaholics who will do anything to get ahead.
Simplypsychology.org (2) further identifies type A’s to be:
…very competitive and self-critical. They strive toward goals without feeling a sense of joy in their efforts or accomplishments. Interrelated with this is the presence of significant life imbalance. This is characterized by high work involvement. Type A individuals are easily “wound up” and tend to overreact. They also tend to have high blood pressure.”
In the 1950’s one of the first studies by Meyer Friedman and Ray Rosenman was done on those with a high achieving personality and noted that TABP (Type A Behavior Pattern) is an important risk factor for coronary heart disease (CHD) (3) They found that type A’s were nearly twice as likely to develop heart disease and they are more to stress-related illnesses due to the constant stress hormone presence, namely the catabolic hormones like cortisol, epinephrine and norepinephrine.
It’s important to note that this was a small study done on men. However, I believe there are still some key takeaways from this study.
Performance Stress, Inflammation and the GI Tract
The most important thing to understand is that stress is linked to disease and, in more recent research, inflammation.
Consequently, chronic inflammation or the inflammatory response gone awry can wreak havoc on every system of the body specifically digestion, blood sugar regulation and your mineral status.
The digestive system is a prime system to experience damage from stress, which is why, if you answered yes to the questions above, you are probably experiencing GI distress from your insatiable need to perform and work and achieve and be “on.”
Here are a few digestive dysfunctions that happen when the body is under chronic stress:
- Disruption and imbalance in the microbiome (4)
- With the HPA Axis burden which comes from chronic performance and achieving (stress hormones), not only is the microbiome compromised but the cognitive function is as well. (5)
- In the presence of stress, the body goes into survival mode and directs, energy away from digestion. It does this so it can direct energy to the “threat” at hand. (6)
- Depletion of vitamin and mineral levels because these nutrients are going to other systems for survival or they aren’t getting absorbed due to food not being broken down well because it’s eaten in a stressful state.
Remember – digestion is a parasympathetic process!
Blood Sugar Regulation
Blood glucose levels must stay in a very tight range in order for our body to be in homeostasis. Several factors can throw blood sugar off and stress is one of those.
One study found that work-related stress actually raised blood glucose levels. (7) If that happens chronically diabetes can present and there is a huge burden on the pancreas to produce more insulin to shuttle into the cells.
According to WebMD diabetes can affect your Vagus nerve which is in charge of how fast your stomach empties. Emptying slows down and food stays in your stomach longer causing distress. (8) This can cause heartburn, nausea, bloating and more.
Put simply, you are not what you eat, you are what you absorb. If you are in a chronic state of stress from continually pursuing those deadlines, goals and accomplishments, the catabolic hormones in the HPA Axis prevent the breakdown and absorption of food. The result of this malabsorption is deficiencies in vitamins and minerals for the body to use to function.
Stress also has the ability to decrease stomach acid levels which are one of the first ways food is broken down in the stomach so nutrients can be used by the body. (9)
Additionally, stress decreases the mucosal lining in the stomach as well as the intestines which further disrupts gut function and may contribute to intestinal permeability which results in depleted mineral levels. (10)
What to do if You’re a Type A, Perform & Achieve and Have GI Issues
Reading all this can feel overwhelming because it’s not like you can just change your personality. I get it. I am a type A myself.
With the understanding that there are certain inherent things I cannot control about the way God made me (and in fact, I embrace His way), I choose to act on the things I can control to reduce and manage the stress properly as well as reduce inflammation.
I want to share with you 5 simple tips that helped me reduce inflammation and not succumb to the statistics that the type A personality can face.
1 Work Hours
Intentionally set work hours and stick to them. That means if your work hours aren’t on the weekend, you don’t work on the weekend. Likewise, if you are scheduled to stop work at 4 pm every day you don’t check your work email at 5 or right before bed.
2 Take Time Out Every Day for Meals
During work hours take at least an hour off work and get outside if you can to purposely enjoy the meal you have before you. Don’t eat on the run. No eating in eat in the car. Don’t eat while working on something for work!
Relax your mind and be grateful for every bite you savor and eat.
Furthermore, practicing this way of eating at every meal will greatly benefit your digestive state and the nutrients you absorb.
3 Practice Morning and Night Meditation
Schedule time each morning for relaxed self-care. This could be time in God’s word, listening to worship music with a candle on, taking an Epsom salt bath, spending time in the infrared sauna, journaling, writing scripture, doing some Pilates stretching. It doesn’t have to take 3 hours. Even a half-hour can be beneficial.
It’s a healthy practice to not just hit the ground running when you wake up.
Similarly, at night wind down by reading by candlelight or listening to soft soothing music. Ditch the phone and blue screen and constant flow of information coming at you. Relax your mind. Create a relaxing ritual that starts at least one hour before bedtime.
4 Ditch Processed Foods. Choose 100% Organic Whole Foods and Drinks
What you eat (and digest) is critically important to the health of your GI system. If you are choosing processed foods, energy drinks to keep your mind awake, highly caffeinated beverages and sugar-filled snacks, not only are you negatively affecting your microbiome and blood sugar regulation, you are also degrading your gut and damaging the very cells that keep you alive.
Get rid of the processed foods and eat a diet of nutrient-dense, properly prepared whole food that comes from God’s creation, not man’s concoctions.
5 Celebrate my Accomplishments
For type A personalities, after we’ve finished a project or met a deadline or goal, it’s pretty common to just move abruptly to the next item on the list.
Instead, plan a celebration of accomplishment. Invite some friends or family and take some time out to reflect on the effort you’ve put forth and that accomplishment. Express gratitude toward your abilities and that God has allowed you to do what you did.
This celebration doesn’t have to be a big one or cost a lot of money. It can just be a simple way of acknowledgment before moving on. In other words, allow yourself to get off the hamster wheel to do some cheering (and relaxing and repairing) for a bit.
My Question to You About Your GI Issues and Stress
Now that you understand how much your achieving, type A personality and GI issues are interconnected, are you going to try and make some healthy changes? If so, which idea above strikes you as something you could do? I’d love to hear in the comments.
1 | Verywellmind.com. (2019). How Your Personality Type Affects Your Health. Retrieved from https://www.verywellmind.com/how-personality-type-affects-health-4153786
2 | Simplypsychology.com. (2017). Type A and B Personality. Retrieved from https://www.simplypsychology.org/personality-a.html
3 | Petticrew, M. P., Lee, K., & McKee, M. (2012). Type A behavior pattern and coronary heart disease: Philip Morris’s “crown jewel”. American journal of public health, 102(11), 2018–2025. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2012.300816
4 | JOUR Zaneveld, Jesse R. McMinds, Ryan Vega Thurber, Rebecca Stress and stability: applying the Anna Karenina principle to animal microbiomes Nature Microbiology 2017/08/24/online217121 Macmillan Publishers Limited https://doi.org/10.1038/nmicrobiol.2017.12110.1038/nmicrobiol.2017.121
5 | Lima-Ojeda Juan M., Rupprecht Rainer, Baghai Thomas C. “I Am I and My Bacterial Circumstances”: Linking Gut Microbiome, Neurodevelopment, and Depression Frontiers in Psychiatry Volume 8 2017 pages 153 https://www.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fpsyt.2017.00153
6 | Health.Harvard.edu. (2019). Stress and the Sensitive Gut. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/stress-and-the-sensitive-gut
7 | Sancini A, Ricci S, Tomei F, et al. Work related stress and blood glucose levels. Ann Ig. 2017;29(2):123–133.
8 | Webmd.com. When Diabetes Causes Stomach Problems. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/type-1-diabetes-guide/diabetes-and-gastroparesis#1
9 | Chriskresser.com. (2019). How Stress Wreaks Havoc on Your Gut and What to do About It. Retrieved from https://chriskresser.com/how-stress-wreaks-havoc-on-your-gut/
10 | Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology. (2011). Stress and the Gut: Pathophysiology, Clinical Consequences, Diagnostic Approach, and Treatment Options. [PDF File] Retrieved from http://www.jpp.krakow.pl/journal/archive/12_11/pdf/591_12_11_article.pdf
Chronic illness helped me “get over” being Type A, and following the things suggested (plus probiotics) help my digestion!
@dSavannahCreate from dSavannahRambles
Such a good point dSavvanah! It did the same for me though it took me a while to really create boundaries and employ many stress management techniques. It was so well worth it! Thanks for sharing.