Having tummy trouble is not fun. For many years, I suffered from digestive problems like chronic gas, bloating, constipation, and stubborn belly fat. Having a bowel movement happened once every 2-3 days. When I went to see the doctor about it I was told, “That’s normal for some people.”
That didn’t sit right with me.
My pants were tight, I felt overweight, I had no sexual desire, I could barely move, and I felt stuck. Clogged. My digestion, metabolism, and elimination were sluggish. That’s not normal.
“What’s wrong with me?” I said over and over again.
I experimented with cleanses, detoxes, and different diets to try and remove whatever was causing the problem. What I learned through that experience, is that those remedies only provide temporary relief unless we can adopt a sustainable mind/body practice.
The mind body connection has everything to do with our digestion because they all communicate through the nervous system. No matter what we eat, if we’re distracted, we can leave our belly feeling uncomfortable.
We have more nerve cells in our digestive tract than we do in our spinal cord! These nerve cells communicate to our head brain (and vice versa) communicating not only hunger, but satiation, immunization, and joy! We have more Serotonin in our Gut than in our head brain. On top of that, we have more bacteria living in our gut than we have cells on our body. We work synergistically with this microbiome as we provide them a host while they help us break down food and protect us from harmful substances. About 70% of our immune cells our in our gut! When in harmony, we naturally stay healthy, energized, and happy.
Our autonomic nervous system allows this all to happen without us even thinking about it! Breathing and all our bodily functions are on autopilot! Thank Goodness! Imagine if we had to remember to breath? We’d be dead!
However, this beautiful symbiotic system is thrown off balance under STRESS.
When we do the typical cleanse, we only remove dietary stress. Eliminating any foods that could cause inflammation, sensitivity, etc.
Where we have a cap is in addressing the emotional and mental stress that have just as much impact on our digestive tract as the food we eat.
We experience conscious stress in different forms. Daily stress that come from sitting in traffic, trying to get the kids to do their homework, or meeting goals at work. Then there’s more chronic stress from being in unhealthy relationships, unfulfilling careers, or the ongoing worry of supporting family. We also have major stress that happen from death of a loved one, physical trauma, or natural disasters.
Back when I was experiencing those digestive problems, I was feeling stuck in my career and relationships. I wanted to work in health and fitness but lacked the courage to leave my job. I was also trying to change some of the people I was closest to: mom, dad, grandma, boyfriend. I started abusing alcohol and fixating on my weight to numb out my emotions.
In general, I’m a sensitive person. Back then, the daily stress alone wiped me out! Food was what I used for coping in addition to the alcohol. I’d feel ashamed about my behavior and would attempt to redeem myself with a diet. My mind and body became disconnected and I didn’t trust my body anymore. I got stuck in a Yo Yo dieting cycle that left my digestive tract screaming for nourishment at a deeper level.
My mind was fixated on being perfect. Have the perfect diet, the perfect man, perfect career, and have of course the perfect body.
I put a lot of pressure on myself.
I didn’t know back then what I know now.
That kind of pressure does some crazy things to our digestive tract and ultimately our entire well being.
The pressure to be perfect can make that marvelous experience of eating and digestion become another thing to check off the list. Without even noticing it, we can rush through a meal or we can eat and multitask by watching TV or working. Most people feel guilty about taking time to eat and JUST EAT.
The problem is if HOW we’re eating is fast and/or distracted, then our digestive system gets compensated. Mind body communication is hijacked. The “fight or flight” response is triggered where our breath becomes shallow, blood flow moves away from the organs (where digestion takes place), and digestion shuts down. We are unable to tune into our bodies sensations to guide our eating experience.
Eating when your body is in these conditions can cause digestive problems like IBS, bloating, constipation, belly fat, and fatigue. This is because the organs don’t have the blood flow to perform optimum digestion, metabolism, and elimination.
HOW & WHY we’re eating makes just as much of an impact to your digestive health as WHAT we’re eating.
There is also that unconscious stress that occurs around eating and may be the reason digestion and metabolism are still sluggish. As I became a Yoga and Mindfulness Meditation Practitioner, I became aware that I had so many negative or distracted thoughts about food and my body WHILE I was eating!
Answering a question like, “What do you want to eat?” started a chain reaction. Thoughts raced like:
“I’ve been good all week. I can have a burger and fries.”
“Oh no. I can’t believe I just ordered that. Can I still change my order? What are my friends going to think?”
“I am going to have to pay for this later.”
“I should be ashamed of myself!”
Those were just a few of the thoughts that flooded my mind while I ate.
Whether we’re experiencing conscious or unconscious stress, it has the same effect on our nervous system and digestion.
When the mind begins to wonder to negative or distracted places it starts to trigger the nervous system “flight or fight” response.
Yogas Chitta Vritti Nirodha, is from the Yoga Sutras that describes Yoga as the mastery over the whirlings of the mind.
What if eating was more like a meditation? Where we can connect with our body intelligence and allow it to do what it was naturally designed to do? Kind of like a Yoga practice, where we sit up with good posture, breathe deeply, eat slowly, and connect with our body.
It’s impossible to stop our thoughts. We use different tools in mindfulness called anchors to come back to the present moment.
Use the BREATH.
Breathing deeply, from our belly, triggers the nervous system to “Rest and Digest.” It naturally slows down and starts getting the body ready to eat.
When we focus on our breath it becomes an anchor so we don’t get carried away by our unconscious thoughts (not at least for too long….). Taking long deep breaths provide more oxygen to our head brain and gut brain to optimize communication. Our internal gps system gets activated and we intuitively know what to eat, when to eat, and how much.
The breath aligns us with the present moment, where we can feel the connection between food, mind, and body. When we are attuned to this, we are able to listen to our body and honor it’s true hunger.
What I’ve found is that sometimes these digestive discomforts were symptoms of emotional hunger. We can try to avoid our feelings with food, diets, or weight obsession but we can’t escape the body’s need to be felt. To feel connected.
Having a consistent meditation practice (especially while eating) helped me hold space for my emotions. To be with my body when it needs me and to work in harmony with it.
My tummy and I have a much better relationship. We visit the bathroom everyday and I don’t have those same chronic symptoms. I feel lighter. Like a heavy weight has lifted off my shoulders. A sense of freedom.
Interested in practicing?
Check out my YouTube Channel for a Blissful Belly Meditation to activate healthy digestion!
You can also join our Facebook Group Body Bliss Enthusiasts when I offer weekly Live Meditations and Workshops to help boost your mind body metabolism!
Are you ready to take action on your health, plus need support and accountability to follow through? Book a FREE breakthrough session with me and let’s create a roadmap for your success! Click HERE to schedule a call!