When I was going through my numerous digestive issues, and saw countless doctors all letting me know that there "was nothing wrong", I started to believe it was all in my head. How could I feel so sick when all my tests came up normal?
After years of working on my digestion and finding a cure through nutrition, I can now confidently say it was all in my head.
But not in the way I originally thought. It was not made up. There were surely physical symptoms telling me that my digestion was in shambles: nausea, vomiting, upset stomach, fatigue and heartburn... ohhhh the heartburn!
What I've found out through healing my digestion is that more than half the digestive process is initiated in the brain. Seeing, smelling, thinking about food primes the body for digestion. The salivary glands start working and the mouth starts watering. Just think about your favorite meal right now. Imagine it was on a plate right in front of you, steaming hot and smelling divine. Did your mouth start watering? Even a little? That's the response I'm talking about.
There are even more downstream effects. This response triggers stomach acid production, enzyme secretion and the release of gastrointestinal hormones. That one little step primes your system and gets you ready for food! But do you do it? or have you been skipping this step?
Another important function of the brain is to tap into your parasympathetic nervous system. This is the system response for your "rest and digest" mode. Blood gets sent to the organs and allows your digestive system to do its job.
The opposite of this is your "fight or flight" mode, controlled by the sympathetic nervous system. This mode tells your body that there may be danger coming, so get ready to run. Blood flows to the extremities in anticipation of movement and action.
The problem is, we spend most of your lives in "fight or flight" mode! And our bodies can only do one mode at a time. So if you don't feel relaxed or you depend on constant stimulation [think phone, computer, driving, exercising, etc] you likely spend your time in the sympathetic nervous system.
It is critical that you take a moment and find your parasympathetic nervous system before you eat in order to set the stage for digestion. As few as 8 deep breaths have been shown to help flip that switch.
But why wait until you are eating to recruit your resting mode? The more you do it, the easier it will be and the quicker you'll be able to get into a relaxed state. My meditation or yoga practice have been extremely beneficial in this way. New to meditation? Check youtube for a guided meditation and start with just a few minutes each morning or night.
So maybe they were right all along. Maybe it was all in my head.... or my brain.... Maybe if I was able to slow down, meditate, engage my brain, pay attention to my food, and get out of my head (and my own way), then maybe, just maybe, the digestive issues could have been kept at bay.
Think about it....
- Take a few moments to breathe or pray before a meal
- If you have kids, maybe sing a song instead
- Sit down and eat without distraction
- Find a way to manage your stress
- Meal prep to reduce stress around preparing food
Take 8 deep breaths before each meal this week. Journal in two sentences how you feel after each meal. One week of mindful eating can make a huge difference. How do you feel?
Need more support? Contact me here!
XOXO ~ Dianne