Prevention to stress

I encourage you to explore complementary therapies for your emotional, physical and psychological needs. Awareness is the key here as to how succesfully your body responds from the therapies you used. Listen to your body's responses from the outcomes of these therapies.
The basics are important but mostly forgotten. From my own experience, the most relevant methods to a healthier gut are as follow:

These are my “5 golden rules” for a healthier colon:
  • Drink water
  • Practice conscious eating
  • Exercise regularly
  • Learn how to relax
  • Have a good quality of sleep
Not something that you haven’t already heard, but really, write those down on a post-it, stick it onto your fridge and start practicing them until it becomes natural. Do it at your own pace, be patient and it will become easier. These are lifestyle changes and it takes time for your body to accept and adjust to any alterations in life.

Water is crucial for hydration, but the quality of the water, is what makes the difference in its performance.


The elixir of life, water, is the ingredient most of the population is lacking in, on an everyday basis. This simple but yet forgotten source of hydration, which keeps our stress levels down, and our bowel moving regularly, is so much taken for granted. You can read more about it here. I gathered together some info about water, on why we should always keep our body hydrated. I hope this will make you increase your water intake. The best part is that in a couple of weeks of hydrating properly, your body will show you gratitude in so many ways.

Water was one of my most relevant missing ingredients for sure, and I went through a long process throughout the years of researching the best option which suited my needs. I went through the routes of tap water, well water, carbonated water, brita filters (expensive option in a long run), and spring water sold in glass bottles (so called… I’m a big skeptic of this source), and of course, the spring water sold in soft plastic bottles which we all know, is bad news! (plastic leaching into the water cannot be good for anyone).

My last stop was with the Berkey filter that I have been using since 2012, and I have been really impressed with the quality of the water.


This means that your brain requires your attention before even thinking of putting food into your mouth to get the digestive system working. The Autonomic Nervous System is our “auto-pilot” mechanism for maintaining the body’s equilibrium and is always in working motion.

It splits into three parts:

  • Sympathetic nervous system also known as “fight or flight”
  • Parasympathetic nervous system also known as “rest and digest”
  • The Enteric nervous system (our gut)

And if you want to understand more about the Autonomic nervous system, please click here.

I would strongly recommend that you educate yourself about your brain chemistry, in order to understand how your digestive and respiratory systems can easily become inflammed if eating the wrong food. Sugar, especially combined with chocolate, as well as foods such as white flour and dairy products, force a rise in endorphin levels, giving you the ultimate "pleasure" drug food, also becoming addictive as dopamine does. As the brain releases more of this hormone bringing "pleasure", it will eventually depletes your endorphin stock (your own natural painkiller).

This pattern will bring your body into an inflammation and allergic state.That's when your digestive system brings you symptoms of feeling bloated, gassy or constipated on a regular basis. Your respiratory system will become another major site of discomfort, and allergic symptoms such as sneezing, wheezing, postanasal drip and sore throats will arise.


In our modern living, the “fight and flight” mechanism tends to overtake the “rest and digest” mechanism and digestion gets compromised. If you eat at your desk, texting while having your food, you are most certainly a “fight or flight” dominant type and your bowel will suffer the consequences.
You can see the relevance of practicing “conscious eating” for a proper digestion. There is so much to say on this subject that I carried on below with a more in-depth explanation about our autonomic nervous sytsem and stress.

The brain and gut are in constant conflict on how to behave during a stressful situation these days, since eating at a desk became normality. Eating while stressing out is indeed a combination for digestive disasters! Indigestion, bloating, gases and belching are some of the discomforts one might complain of, on a regular basis. You can see why it is so important to avoid as much distraction as possible when eating. It takes discipline to get away from that computer desktop or from that desk all together.
The idea is to change the pattern, and find yourself a spot where you can sit and eat your food, rather than catching up with work emails. That’s what a working day is for, doing work stuff. Otherwise, you will be surfing on social networks and forget that you are already busy doing something else…. Like….. eating!

Put that mobile away and get back to people’s texts and voice messages when you have finished your meal. They can wait an extra 30 minutes, unless it is a matter of life and death!

Keep that gossip magazine or novel to read, for after you finished your meal, as once your attention is onto that reading, your digestive system is once again being half switched on, compromising your digestion for later on. If you don’t have enough time to catch up on the gossips, then other people’s problems will have to wait. Or maybe you are more interested in somebody else’s life than your own? Maybe your health is not that important?

Instead, why don’t you take a deep breath in and out while you are looking at the food you are to put in your mouth? Make your digestive system aware of what’s happening. Food is on the way!
The enteric nervous system is the mechanism that is less talked about in regard of our digestive health, but which fascinates me most.
It even has a nickname: “our second brain”. Think about the days when you felt nervous about an academic exam you had to seat, or these deadlines at work getting you all stressed out, or even that driving test that you’ve had to take…. again. Sounds familiar?

Do you ever remember having diarrhea or stomach cramps before any of those events? If you can relate to any of them, these emotions could be due to your enteric nervous system being at work. It is simply a network of nerves put together, which runs along our esophagus, stomach and intestines. Our very own nerve sheet (neural crest), developed during fetal growth and divided into two nervous systems, our brain (central nervous system) and our gut (enteric nervous system). Our gut is directly connected to our brain via the 10th cranial nerve (vagus nerve). Therefore, you can see why emotions and digestion are strongly linked.

Being nervous would describe our butterflies in our tummy, if we feel instinctive; we refer it as having a “gut feeling”. This system is being investigated in depth by the scientific world, as there are so many questions unanswered from this complex brain-gut connection.

The best part is when studying with laboratory mice, they found out that friendly bacteria lodged in their colon, sent a mix of chemicals via the vagus nerve sending signals to the brain and therefore influencing their behavior (1). Fascinating indeed!!

1- J. A. Bravo et al. “Ingestion of Lactobacillus strain regulates emotional behavior and central GABA receptor expression in a mouse via the vagus nerve”. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Published online August 29, 2011. Doi: 10.1073/pnas.1102999108 . Available at:

Go to my "My journey” page for ideas on how to make it back to a more balanced health.


The ability to absorb and discharge stool is dependent on the pelvic floor muscles (two fancy words for you: the levator ani and the puborectalis), therefore, exercise is needed in order to strengthen these two important muscles, and enhance this everyday mechanism; defecation. With a healthy colon, a stress-free walk can stimulate the bowel enough, that it will improve the call of nature’s mechanism.

The tricky part is to find out what type of exercise suits your body needs. But most importantly, how much you are going to engage with that exercise. I always emphasize on the importance of individuality. What really makes you enjoying the process, let it be nutrition, exercise or any lifestyle changes, you need to embrace that process. Exploring is the key here to what you might like and dislike.

I have to emphasize on the importance of breathing. You help your gut to relax; you help yourself in the process. By just simply taking a deep breath a few times everyday; we could help lessening our stress level, and probably make a difference on how we cope with it on a daily basis. It is important to bring oxygen to our digestive system, so the blood is distributed thoroughly in our body, as well as the nutrients it transports.

Endorphin, this powerful hormone we naturally release as we experience an enjoyable sensation (ie: when you love something or someone and tune in to how it feels; a person, a movie, a place, a book, a dress, a hug, a deep breathing etc...) is very much involved in how much it can enhance relaxation, therefore, relief stress. Unfortunately, this special hormone can be suppressed for some people related to their foods and lifestyle choices.

Our abdominal region should be engaged as we physically doing something, let it be as simple as reading a book, speaking to someone on the phone or writing an essay from our computer. An easy way to pick up on our breathing pattern, is to become aware throughout the day of when we block it! You will be surprise how many times you do it. Just right now for instance, as you are reading this, check on your breathing. Is it regular? Is it shallow? How do you feel on that breathing? Is your tummy tensed? If it is then, you have already entered a "stress cycle". Next time you type on your computer keypad or texting someone, become aware of your breathing and notice if you even were breathing at that particular moment. Start practicing!

Remember our “Auto-pilot” mechanism, continuously into working motion going between our “fight or flight” and “rest and digest” mode? The switch between the two stimuli should be a natural and smooth transition so that our body goes back to its balanced state allowing optimum digestion. Once a threat has being dealt with (fight or flight), the body gradually reverts back to normal as the “rest and digest” mode is activated. Prolonged stress doesn’t allow the body to recover from the cascade of biochemical reactions created by the “fight of flight” stimulus, and can become detrimental to one’s health. This mechanism involves mostly adrenaline and cortisol surges for a too long period of time, creating an overstressed gut.

Ongoing stressful conditions such as a heavy workload, relationship troubles or financial worries keep the body into a fear state, not allowing the “rest and digest” mode to be switched on efficiently. Therefore, relaxation doesn’t occur. One can be more susceptible to symptoms such as headaches, abdominal troubles, fatigue, aches and pain, anger, high blood pressure or even infection and stress-related illnesses.

Now... take a deep breath.


Sleep is there to get a rest from a physical, intellectual or/and emotional fatigue. Another most valuable tool to good health and a happy gut, is definitely a good sleep pattern. A crucial repairing mechanism called the “circadian rhythm” (meaning “about a day”) being our sleep-wake cycle, is our fine-tuned body’s internal clock, which regulates over a 24 hours period. According to Dr. J. Wright (2), all it takes is one week of bad sleep to disrupt over 700 of our genes! Genes that are responsible for how our body recovers from stress, and our immune system fights illnesses. How many hours of sleep one might need will vary on the activity level one has. It will also depend on one’s age.

Don’t get fooled by the idea that you can have the biggest lie-in over the weekend to catch up on late nights experienced during the week, as your brain will only get confused by it. It will likely disrupt its circadian rhythm, and put it into a “change of season” or a “jet-lag” mode, meaning that you are probably not going to function properly. You might feel better off to have a power-nap of 20 minutes every day, in order to help yourself recovering from that heavy weekend you just had. One might benefit from a few early nights during the week and by that I mean, in bed before 10pm. Avoid exercise too close to bedtime if you have a hard time to fall asleep, and use some relaxing music to calm down your mind... or read a book and definitely avoid watching television.
Now... enjoy that power-nap!


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If you need anymore information, please, email or call me on 0207 247 7742 within the hours of 9am to 9pm Monday to Saturday,
I will be happy to answer any enquiries you might have.

Your therapist at 4 Balance and Health, Edwige Cabanetos

Therapies offered at 4 Balance and Health are not substitutes for traditional medical care by your GP, they are complementary therapies that may be used in conjunction with conventional medicine. Should you be aware of any reasons why these therapies are contra-indicated to you or you have a serious health problem, please consult your GP prior to their use.