On the surface we can take those feelings of nausea, butterflies or a churning stomach as nervousness about an upcoming event or a difficult conversation we need to have. We can put our inability to eat and having no appetite whatsoever down to the argument we had earlier in the day. They are just the physical manifestations that we’re upset, aren’t they?
We probably know ourselves that the answer is no. Scientists have found that there are communication channels from the gut to the brain and vice versa. For example, when our brain thinks about food, our stomach can start releasing the juices necessary to start digesting it even before the food arrives; conversely an unsettled intestine can send messages to the brain to stop us from sending any food down to it, whether we choose to listen to that message is, of course, another matter!
However, in recent times, there has been an increase in research into the relationship between the mind, the gut and the micro-organisms that live inside it, the gut microbiome. The human gut microbiome includes many different species of bacteria, some help process food and maintain a healthy immune system while others may cause disease. In future, ongoing research may lead to us to have a full understanding of and answers to questions such as why we crave sugar in obesity and why chronic stress puts us at risk of developing irritable bowel syndrome.
In the meantime, there are a few stress management tips we can practice to help ease the toll we all place on our digestive systems, it may come as no surprise that they all have positive implications for our mental health too:
- Remember Diaphragmatic Breathing
- Try a Guided Mindfulness Meditation Exercise
- Think before we eat
- Use exercise to benefit both our mental and physical health
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