A Happy Gut = A Happy Life!
Whether or not people want to talk about it, digestive disturbances are more common than realized. In fact, “60 to 70 million” to be exact! For some, this is a constant battle; for others, it may only be a transient condition. Either way, it is not comfortable to deal with. Luckily, there are preventive and holistic measures which will decrease symptoms and flare-ups.
To stand up against digestive disease, we first need to address how the brain is influenced by stress levels. There are a number of hormones released when the brain is in a state of stress. This may cause a loss of appetite, uncontrollable cravings, irritability, bloating, irregular bowel movements, low energy, etc, etc. The list goes on, and it doesn’t take a doctor to figure out when the mind is under stress, the whole body can go haywire.
With how demanding and hectic schedules are for the average person, it is of no surprise the majority of individuals are in a constant state of stress. And the body part most affected by this is the digestive system. The gut is also known as the “little brain”; interesting fact- there are more nerve cells in the stomach and intestines than the entire spinal cord! The connection between the gut and brain is remarkably complex, with a directly correlation to our mood and emotions. A recent article by HealthDay summarized that, “95 percent of the body’s serotonin (the ‘happy’ hormone) is found in the digestive system and not in the brain”! Therefore, the brain affects the gut and the gut affects the brain…dramatically!
If the nervous system is overwhelmed it will activate the “fight or flight” response, slowing down digestion, decreasing absorption of nutrients, creating a misfiring physiological effect, and a dysfunctional gut. Long term, high stress levels can lead to stomach ulcers, aches, nausea, irritable bowel syndrome, acid reflux, diarrhea, and constipation. OUCH!
The Main Tools To Decrease Stress:
• Daily meditation
• Increase physical activity
• Practice breathing exercises
• Decrease sugar and carbohydrate intake
• PLENTY of sleep- this is a big one!
• And talk to your Naturopath- you may be lacking key supplements
Massage: Manual therapies like massage decrease stress and anxiety levels by creating a relaxed state in the individual seeking them out. Further, the Registered Massage Therapist’s at Vitality Clinic have practical experience working directly and indirectly on digestive issues. Directly, your therapist will increase blood flow, stimulate the release of serotonin, encourage peristalsis (the contraction and relaxation of your intestines, which creates the movement of bowels through your system), and significantly reduce stress in your gut and mind.
Chiropractic care: Spinal adjustments help boost the immune system which makes the body’s defence system more effective. Also, the relationship between the nerves exiting the spinal cord and the end organ (somatovisceral relationship) acts very much like a garden hose. If there is a “kink” in the garden hose (ie nerve exiting the spine) the water (ie information being provided) can’t flow as efficiently, and the garden (ie digestive tract) may not flourish. Adjustments “unkink” the hose allowing for optimal flow of information and the best outcome for the “garden”.
Naturopath: Your diet and balance of good vs bad bacteria in your gut is an extremely important factor when it comes to digestive disturbances. If your gut is not functioning optimally, it may leave you feeling sluggish, toxic, low energy, lacking motivation, and emotional. Naturopathic Medicine views digestion “as the key piece to any naturopathic plan.” It is important to see a licensed Naturopath to help you with digestive wellness. Different approaches may include dietary modification, food allergy testing, homeopathic remedies, nutritional supplementation (like probiotics), immune support, IV therapy, and blood testing.
Acupuncture: The final meal ticket (pun intended) that is going to bring it all home for you is acupuncture! Not kidding, guys. Acupuncture is derived from ancient Chinese Medicine. It describes in detail metabolic changes in the body including the production of energy. It says that “our energy is produced from two sources: air inhaled during breathing and energy from food provided by proper digestion.” So, the doctors and scholars are focused on these two processes as the keystone for health and well-being. Inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes, stomach ulcers, nausea and vomiting, irritable bowel syndrome, obesity, biliary colic, xerostomia, gout, acid reflux, etc. Our Registered Acupuncturist can help with all these digestive disturbances! Evidence Based Acupuncture quotes that, “acupuncture is more effective than pharmacotherapy in the treatment of diseases of intestines”, and they have hundreds of studies to support this statement!
When you are exercising or stretching your body, you are increasing the blood flow to your organs, and giving them an ‘internal massage’. It’s like wringing out a dirty towel. A great practice to help with digestive health is yoga. It incorporates twisting, stretching, strengthening and relaxation- all of which are crucial to promoting a healthy system. Getting in the habit of walking after you’ve had a big meal is also important; doing so directly aids in digestion. Any way you can get your body moving is going to be helpful! Take the stairs instead of the elevator, walk to work, stretch while relaxing in front of the television, implement a 10 minute morning stretch routine. Your body will thank you for it!
A happy gut really does mean a happy life!
The Vitality Team