Pain in the Gut
Grumble, Rumble, Growl & Gurgle. What goes inside, it makes you curdle.
Indigestion after meals, twinges and twangs – maybe even doubling over in cramps – you thought that colic ended in infancy! Sound familiar?
Maybe you’ve even been diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)*, or told you have a “sensitive stomach”.
Surprisingly that diagnosis is accurate in more ways than one.
Your intestinal system, starts at your mouth, which transitions to your stomach, your small intestine, and large intestine, and then finally your rectum. It is filled with specialized cells:
- some that let us enjoy your experience and use your senses,
- some that filter & absorb the outside world so that you can obtain your necessary nourishment,
- some that focus on hormones and messaging systems,
And all of it is wrapped in a nervous system that acts, reacts and responds to all that you interact with.
This nervous system is called the enteric nervous system (ENS) – your second brain.
Or maybe it is your first? Much less complex than your brain, but just as independent, the ENS has a mind of its own that listens quite intently to what passes through. Your skin and intestinal system are two systems that need to be sensitive, as they are the first to encounter the external world – to ensure you are safe.
As far as we know, the two brains are linked by one vital nerve, the Vagus Nerve – by which they send their messages of joy and warning, back and forth. It is like a never ending night of tin can telephone , but with thousands of years of evolution, that has surpassed our society’s communication technology.
All too often, what we eat can send our ENS into a tizzy. Your intestines can indeed get irritated, can become sensitive, angry, excited, delirious. Your second brain has feelings too – inextricably linked to your first brain. Digest that for a moment.
5 tips for a happy belly:
Create calm. Whether at work, or home, standing or sitting, clear time to eat that has nothing to do with anything else. If your mind is relaxed, your intestines will be calm.
Breathe. Whether your body has washboard abs, or a soft centre, loosen your belt and let your belly expand. Take 5 deep, non restricted breaths before you eat.
- Chew. Chew for 5 seconds longer than your think. Let your digestion begin in your mouth and mind.
- Roughage and Slowage. There are 2 types of fibre, we can over do either. Insoluble fibre -from most green vegetables and husk of grains, create roughage and tend to move your bowels. Soluble fibre - from the swelling grains and fruit, create bulk and can increase your nutrient absorption. Eat both types of fibre out everyday. In addition to keeping you “regular”, steady fibre intake supplies your intestinal flora with its proper nourishment, which creates the fuel for your large intestine.
- Get Fat. All types of fat are necessary for every cell in your body. Your intestinal cells turnover within 4 weeks, so supply your body with the fat it needs to replace these cells. No more than %30 of your caloric intake should be fat, and no more than 10% as saturated fats. Choose small amounts of organic butter & coconut oil, fill the rest with a variety of olive oil, avocados, nuts & seeds and consume ocean-wise fish.
And somedays, maybe you just need a nap.
Listen to your gut and treat it well, it will respond in kind.
*IBS is a completely different and condition from IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease). IBD needs physician consultation and appropriate treatment. Any unusual or severe symptoms should always be reviewed by a physician to ensure that you are not missing a more serious condition.