An article published at Bella Magazine.
How you feel has a huge impact on your digestive health. So what can you do about it?
Think of the last time you had a dicky tummy. You probably put it down to dodgy food or a bug but chances are there was also something emotional going on. Maybe you were feeling stressed at work, or angry, frustrated or sad about something.
Your second brain
‘We have two brains,’ says Dr Irina Matveikova, author of Digestive Intelligence, (Findhorn Press). ‘One is in the head, one is inside the digestive system (ENS).
“The network of neurons found here is identical in structure to that of the neurons in the brain. Both produce similar molecules, hormones and neurotransmitters.’
“There´s constant communication between our upper and lower brain,’ says Dr Matveikova. ‘And it travels in both directions. So if you´re stressed, this affects digestion or can make existing problems worse. Likewise, if you have indigestion, constipation or diarrhoea, the discomfort and worry will affect your mood and mental clarity.
‘Having unresolved emotions is one of the main reasons some people don´t respond to treatments. So tackling digestive disorders needs to combine practical tactics with healing emotional issues.’
What´s your stomach saying?
Constipations and bloating may be a sign that life is ‘weighing you down’. Perfectionists and controlling types are more likely to be affected. People with chronic constipation release the feel-good chemical serotonin more slowly (90 per cent of serotonin is produced in the gut).
What you can do:
- Cut out fast foods, sweets and white flour, and cut down on animal protein. Instead, eat fibre-rich foods such as fresh vegetables and fruit. It can also help to snack on stewed prunes and apricots, and to drink a glas of organic beetroot juice a day.
- Talk to friends and family or seek professional counselling to help resolve painful emotions.
- Exercise regularly to get your bowel moving.
2. Irritable bowel
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) affects around one in 10 of us. Typical symptoms include abdominal pain, cramps and spasms, bloating and alternating constipation and diarrhoea. People affected are often obsessive, perfectionist, controlling, highly responsible types. Anxiety, stress, fear, anger, insecurity and unresolved emotional pain can make symptoms worse.
What you can do:
- Check for food intolerances. Ask your GP about being tested or try the York test.
- Peppermint oil can help reduce symptoms. Healthspan High Strength Peppermint Oil in capsules. Or drink peppermint tea.
- Take up yoga – studies show it helps sufferers.
- Ask your GP about being referred to an integrated health practitioner who can treat both physical and psychological symptoms. The Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine offers group therapy for IBS sufferers.
3. Stomach acid and cramps
Stress causes the body to release stress chemicals, including cortisol and adrenaline, and this can trigger a higher production of stomach acid, leading to indigestion, stomach cramps, hearthburn and bloating.
Fear, grief, stress or sadness can all make you feel as if there´s a knot in your stomach. Emotional tension and anxiety can also make you feel as if you´ve got ‘butterflies’ or ‘a chill’ in your stomach, or your stomach can feel ‘empty’ when it isn´t.
What you can do:
- If you´re stressed, eat less. Fro a few days, have smaller meals or drink fresh vegetable and fruit juices, herbal infusions, smooties, soups, yoghurt and kefir (a fermented yoghurt drink from health food shops).
- Focus on eating slowly and in a relaxed environment.
- Eat in small quantities every four hours.
- Try BioCare Slippery Elm Intensive powder, which is said to soothe the digestive tract.