Often referred to as you “second brain” the link between mental wellbeing and gut health is being avidly studied and proved by leading doctors and scientists.
Have you ever felt butterflies in your stomach when you are a bit nervous? Do your squirm in gut wrenching experiences? Or perhaps feel nauseous when stressed or overwhelmed? We’ve all felt the physical effects of the mind on the gut in one way or another.
The gastrointestinal tract is sensitive to emotion. Anger, anxiety, sadness, elation — all of these feelings (and others) can trigger symptoms in the gut.
The brain has a direct effect on the stomach and intestines. A troubled intestine can send signals to the brain, just as a troubled brain can send signals to the gut.
Given how closely the gut and brain interact, it becomes easier to understand why our stress can severely impact the digestive systems ability to function. And when we struggle with digestive issues such as bloating, constipation, upset stomach, IBS etc we also feel mental distress and unlike ourselves and thus it is a vicious cycle of stress impacts gut impacts stress.
In Yogic Philosophy the digestive system is seen as the key indicator to good health. It is symbolised as fire or “agni” – strong agni signifying virality of life! To increase agni and improve a weak digestive system yoga can help by stretching and toning the muscles of the abdomen and encouraging movement and flow by stimulating the endocrine glands. A flowing vinyasa practice incorporating lots of twists can be useful to increase “agni” or fire. My favourite poses when experiencing sluggish digestion are seated and reclining twists and happy baby. A lot of digestive issues have been shown to be directly linked to stress and I imagine twists to be a “wringing out” of my troubles.
Breathing exercises like Kapalbhatti can help increase immunity by enabling the heart to pump more blood to our digestive cells.