Why do we say that we are unable to “stomach” something? Or that we have a “gut feeling” about someone? We have the same chemicals and neurotransmitters in our intestine that we have in our brain. Serotonin is a major neurotransmitter in the brain, and it is also present in the intestinal wall. The process of digestion is sensitive to stress and emotion. It’s no wonder that we can “feel” emotions in our gastrointestinal tract.
If we eat when we are stressed, our ability to digest is impaired. The adrenal glands release the “fight or flight” hormones during stress which put our energy into the muscles (so that we can fight or run from the proverbial tiger) and not into the digestive process. The problem is that for most of us the threat of the “tiger” is with us most of the time, whether it is from outside demands of work or from internally generated stress and emotions.
Most of our immune system is present in the intestinal wall where it acts as the first line of defense against foreign organisms coming in. It is here that the complex job of letting in needed food molecules and acting as a barrier to keep out the toxic and foreign molecules at the same time takes place. Doesn’t that sound like the familiar balancing act that we do emotionally every day? Additionally, the intestinal cells are fast growing and need good levels of nutrients to be able to keep up with the demand for new cells. Many of those nutrients are lost in the time it takes food to get from the farm to your plate and particularly during cooking. And that is without the “Krispy Kreme factor” added in to the equation.
It’s no wonder that so many people have stomachaches, food allergies and sensitivities. Stress, subtle dietary deficiencies and the overgrowth of abnormal bacteria or yeast in the colon following antibiotic use can all conspire to create digestive havoc. So what is the antidote? Of course, reducing your stress level however you are able will help. When you eat, relax, and try to eat consciously. Chew your food well, and eat fresh food. Avoid the white foods (refined flour and sugar) but also milk products if you are one of the many people who are sensitive to them. Give the good bacteria in your colon lots of fiber (in fruit, vegetables, beans and whole grains) so that they can thrive. Add in a good probiotic (acidophilus) type of supplement for more support. There are also many nutrients and herbal medicines which are effective in healing the gastrointestinal system. Peppermint and ginger are two common herbs which relax the intestines and promote digestion. And consider digestive analysis testing or food allergy testing if you need more answers. After all, you can’t be gutsy with a cranky colon.
The best approach to achieving greater wellness would be to work with a licensed naturopathic physician (N.D.). A good way to find an N.D. is through the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians, then you will also have access to professional quality herbal and nutritional supplements that can be the most effective.