There is a growing body of evidence about the link between the brain and our gut, so how does meditation help improve gut health?
Many of my clients notice that when they are more stressed their digestive system will be affected. We are all familiar with stress symptoms like headaches, insomnia and anxiety but our digestion can certainly be affected as well.
There is a complex pathway between the brain and the gut with messages going up to the brain and back down again. The pathway includes messages from and to our nervous system and the mechanics of our digestive system.
There are lots of research studies showing an association between stress and common digestive complaints such as IBS constipation bloating reflux and diarrhoea.
When we’re stressed it triggers a fight-or-flight response, prompting a release of stress hormones in various parts of the body, which can disturb the microbes living in our gut.
How stress affects your gut health
When we’re in a fight or flight state our body doesn’t prioritise digestion. This means the gastric motility, the speed at which we move food through the digestive tract, may be slower or speeded up. We will also produce less gastric juices, such as digestive enzymes and stomach acid.
This can lead to fermentation of food in the gut causing bloating, gas or pains.
Meditation and gut health
Meditation helps regulate our response to stress which can then suppress chronic inflammation and maintain a healthy gut-barrier function.
When we’re in a ‘rest and digest’ mode, we’re better able to handle our digestive functions.
If we resolve stress will our digestion improve?
Not all digestive issues are connected to stress. There could be other reasons you have IBS symptoms, such as food intolerance, imbalance of bacteria, or other health conditions. The body is all one organism though, so whatever is going on for you mentally will play out in the body.
Unfortunately it’s not as simple as giving a prescription for ‘X number of minutes meditating at Y times per week’ to see an improvement.
But, as part of a comprehensive plan to improve your overall health then focussing on improving our mental state can be very powerful.
Many people often find meditation can help them feel more resilient to deal with physical symptoms when they are calmer.
Mindful eating for better gut health
You may find that bringing some conscious thinking to the way in which you eat can also help reduce digestive symptoms. Slowing down, sitting down to eat, chewing your food properly and noticing your feelings of hunger and fullness around food may be helpful.
Hi I'm Anna Mapson, registered Nutritionist (mBANT, CNHC). I help people with IBS, gut health and digestive issues.
I can help you to:
- understand your digestion better, so you recognise your triggers
- eat a well balanced diet, with tasty meals that are simple to prepare
- develop healthy, sustainable habits for life
“Anna is amazing! I feel totally transformed"
To find more about 1:1 nutrition consultations or my group membership see my IBS Diet support page