The Whole View, Season 3 Ep 12: The Impact of Stress on the Gut with Sarah Kay Hoffman

Welcome Sarah Kay Hoffman to the Whole View! This week, Stacy and Sarah discuss gut health, the impact of stress on the gut, and why stress can wreak havoc. Sarah shares her experience with gut health issues and offers tips and advice for healing from the inside out.

Find Sarah: 

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Key Takeaways


  • Stacy found Sarah and her team through her community in the anti-diet world. Such irony since it’s exactly what she needed a decade ago when she was so focused on diet and dietary changes under the guise of health. Of course, Stacy expected weight loss to be the result of health, pretended (despite countless before and after photos) that wasn’t the case.
  • What Stacy wasn’t talking about in those interviews were nutrient insufficiency, hair loss, digestive distress. She was skipping meals to lose weight – which is defined disordered eating – and because she didn’t have a gall bladder it was causing incredible stress on her body.
  • Sarah Kay Hoffman is the founder of A Gutsy Girl. It was founded in 2012 as a way to connect with women worldwide who were also sitting in silence about all things IBS, IBD, infertility, and more.
  • Sarah’s issues started when she’d just gotten out of a very heartbreaking relationship and hit rock bottom. At the exact same time, she left home to go to college. She lived in a dorm by herself and came down with an unknown illness.
  • It’s very common for people go through something that is traumatic or very stressful and whatever it is that’s already within them is triggered.
  • Sarah is now diagnosed with a low functioning thyroid. With  “adrenal fatigue.” She also has unexplained infertility which links back to years of chronic under eating and stress, among other things.

Impact of Stress on the Gut

  • The way Sarah goes about teaching, helping people understand, and unpacking is with her three pillars to ultimate gut healing: diagnosis, diet, and lifestyle. And she puts them in that order for a specific reason. 
  • Diagnosis and diet are the “easy parts.” By the time you get to that third pillar, lifestyle, it gets extremely to overcome. Not only that, but you don’t ever technically overcome it, but rather work on it for the rest of your life. 
  • When we talk about stress there’s the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight mode) and the parasympathetic (rest and digest). So for most of the time we want to be in the parasympathetic state, however, most of us, and most of the time we are in the sympathetic nervous state.
  • When we are in this state, it slows the digestion and the flow of our food. So what our body is telling us when we’re in this state all the time is, “no, you’re not going to digest your food appropriately right now, because we’ve got more important things to worry about.”
  • Sleep deprivation is also very real. Shortly before Sarah hit rock bottom and was diagnosed with the CBO, she was sleeping only a few hours a night. She was surviving on caffeine, and that puts enormous stress on the body. 
  • If you have financial worries, that’s not only a stressor but it also impacts your ability to access some of the tools that are often talked about in the holistic wellness community.

Topics discussed

  • When we look at the science, it rings very loudly: unmitigated stress and anxiety have a far greater impact on our health than any other factor. From physical symptoms, such as headaches, digestive distress, high blood pressure, chest pain, and problems with sex and sleep – which we know has a huge impact on our bodies. And, stress can also lead to emotional problems – like depression, panic attacks, or other forms of anxiety and worry. Both can be linked to death. So much so that the NIH has a fact sheet to help you evaluate your stress level and manage accordingly:
  • And published a review, including 124 sources, which summarizes: Any intrinsic or extrinsic stimulus that evokes a biological response is known as stress. The compensatory responses to these stresses are known as stress responses. Based on the type, timing and severity of the applied stimulus, stress can exert various actions on the body ranging from alterations in homeostasis to life-threatening effects and death. In many cases, the pathophysiological complications of disease arise from stress and the subjects exposed to stress, e.g. those that work or live in stressful environments, have a higher likelihood of many disorders. Stress can be either a triggering or aggravating factor for many diseases and pathological conditions.
  • Sarah lists anti-anxiety medications among one of the ways you treated her SIBO. source:
  • Is stress causing digestive distress:

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Note: Stacy and her guests are not medical professionals. This podcast is for general educational purposes and NOT intended to diagnose, advise, or treat any physical or mental illness. We always recommend you consult a licensed service provider.

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