When it comes to the human body and disease, we are just scratching the surface because we never address the root cause of every problem. We enable true healing only when we look at the root cause of every disease and go down to the minute details. Everybody has to be looked as a whole, and not a part, in isolation.

We often ignore our mind while addressing the body, not realising that mind is connected to it in every way. A classic example of mind-body connection is the connect between gut and brain.  

The gut and brain are almost constantly communicating via the gut-brain axis. They have an intricate connection and the health of one affects the health of another. A messed-up gut can affect the brain and a messed-up brain can affect the gut. In fact, gut is called the second brain and it is connected with the brain via a system of nerves called the Enteric Nervous System. It is as real as any other systems like autonomic or central nervous system. So, the gut and the brain communicate almost every second via ENS. 

What happens in the mind reflects on the gut 

The state of your mind has a direct impact on the health of your gut which is why when you are stressed you feel those kinds of spasms or butterflies in your stomach. That is your brain sending signals to your gut. Even at the thought of food, your stomach starts secreting acids and digestive enzymes. That’s how sensitive your mind-gut connection is. Now think of all the hundreds of emotions that cross your mind and its impact on your gut.  

Most of the gut cases that come to us—IBS, IBS, Ulcerative colitis, GERD, Autoimmune issues, Crohn’s—have a commonality: emotional distress. Too much anger, sadness, guilt, jealousy, resentment can depress gut health. When one is stressed, as/he is in the fight or flight mode, that is the sympathetic mode. In this mode, our body strives to prepare us to overcome the stressor by putting all functions in the backburner like digestion, sex hormone production, immune system. They become of least priority when our body experiences stress, which means chronic stress can chronically upset our digestive system.

Stress also impacts the ratio of good versus bad bacteria. It also weakens the gut barrier that prevents pathogens and protein particles from entering the gut, leading to a condition called leaky gut where the barrier becomes permeable to particles that are capable of seeping into the blood stream and eliciting an immune response. 

Thus, it is so important to constantly focus on our emotional well-being, through yoga, pranayama, meditation, visualisation, positive affirmations, practising gratitude, praying—especially when our gut health is already compromised. 

What happens in the gut reflects on the mind too

Do you know why do you feel blah on days you haven’t had clean bowel movements? Why does the feeling of being bloated or an upset digestion make you feel irritable, moody, groggy and why do you instantly feel good when you clean your bowels in the morning?

It’s all got to do with gut-brain connection. The state of your gut health can go a long way in determining how you feel. So now think about cravings and urges that you’ve been fighting. It just could be an unhealthy gut communicating with your brain in the wrong language!  

Gut is also where feel-good neurotransmitters like serotonin, GABA and dopamine are produced and they are responsible for making us feel good and upbeat. So, you can go around looking for quick fixes to make you feel good or numb your sadness—but if your gut health is not in proper shape, your body will fail at producing the chemicals that are responsible for elevating your mood and spirit. Everything else is just a quick fix, that too a short-lived one.

This is why when you are treating depression and anxiety, you have to treat your gut health as well. Normal people will have those feelings of depression and anxiety which cannot be controlled because your body has the wrong gut bacteria that are not enough to produce the right amount of serotonin that your brain needs.

Thus, taking care of gut health should be a No. 1 priority if your emotional wellness is a concern. Follow a lifestyle that supports gut health and disregard habits that spoil it.  Daily probiotics and prebiotics, avoiding triggers and allergens, too much tea and coffee, alcohol, meat—in certain cases—should be your focus points. 

The Vagus nerve connection

The connection between mind and gut becomes clearer when you look at the Vagus nerve—the longest cranial nerve that passes from your brainstem through your oesophagus, lungs, kidney and abdomen into your stomach and gut. It means that this nerve has numerous functions to do with all of these body parts.

In the gut, the Vagus nerve is responsible for directing the secretion stomach acids in the right amounts. Most people today have low production of stomach acid which leads to a lot of other conditions like gas, H pylori or stomach infections and bugs because they do not have the right stomach acid to break down all the toxins, pathogens, germs and bacteria consumed in the food that they eat and it in turn impacts digestion leading to bloating and flatulence. So, the Vagus nerve is also required to stimulate the production of digestive enzymes in the gut.

In fact, sometimes just by stimulating the Vagus nerve you can also ensure better digestion in your stomach. Things like jeera (cumin), ajwain (carom seeds) and all the concoctions do help but there’s also the neurological part of the human body that we cannot leave out of the equation of healing.

One needs to be in a state of calm to be able to activate the Vagus nerve, which is why deep breathing, chanting and meditation are some of the best ways to activate this nerve and in turn digestion. Oxygen has the ability to move you from sympathetic to the parasympathetic within seconds. It also has the ability to stimulate your Vagus nerve in a fraction of seconds.

The Vagus nerve is a connection between the mind and the body which is why we constantly say that in holistic health, the mind and body is connected. You cannot just treat your physical self without taking your mind into the equation of healing nor can you only treat your mind without taking your physical self into the equation. There is a mind-body connection with all these cranial nerves that start from our brain and go through almost every part of the human body including your gut.

Your thoughts have an impact on your behaviour and your feelings and emotions have a direct impact on trillions of cells in your body. This means they impact the functioning of every single organ.

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  • Luke Coutinho

    Holistic Lifestyle Coach - Integrative Medicine

    Luke Coutinho is a globally renowned Holistic Lifestyle Coach in the field of Integrative and Lifestyle Medicine and an award-winning Holistic Nutritionist practising across India and overseas.  Wellness being the need of the hour, Luke has Co-founded RESET - Holistic Living Concepts, a one-of-a-kind facility for individuals who are voyaging towards holistic well-being. Along with this, he is an adviser and Head of Integrative Lifestyle and Nutrition at Pure Nutrition and also the Co-founder of GOQii, a digital healthcare platform with personalised coaching.

    His recent achievements include being felicitated as the 'Best in the Industry - Nutritionist by Vogue in 2018', 'Best Health Expert of the year 2018' by ELLE Beauty awards and 'Middle East Healthcare Leadership Award – Best Holistic Wellness in Integrative and Lifestyle Medicine in 2017.' Recently he has been awarded at The GQ's 50 Most Influential Young Indians for the year 2018. Making use of food and lifestyle in a holistic manner and having a strong focus on emotional healing, Luke’s programs have positively impacted people around the world suffering from grave maladies, thus aiding them to heal in an integrative way.