Did you know there is a “little brain” hidden in the walls of your gut?
Scientists call this small brain the enteric nervous system (ENS). The ENS is comprised of two thin layers of nerve cells, which line the gastrointestinal tract from your esophagus to your rectum.
The ENS controls digestion, aids in swallowing, and helps to release the enzymes needed for breaking down food. It also helps the cardiovascular system regulate the blood flow that helps with digestion and elimination.
Research is finding that digestive problems can be a major cause of anxiety and depression. People who struggle with IBS, constipation, bloating, diarrhea, and stomach pain, often experience emotional shifts surrounding these issues. The gastrointestinal system sends signals to the central nervous system (CNS), which can possibly trigger mood changes.
Have you noticed it’s harder to eat when you are stressed or nervous? When we are in “fight or flight” mode, the response of the central nervous system is triggered. Our ENS is now sending signals to slow down or stop digestion. After all, our bodies think we need all its energy to fight or flee from something endangering us. No time to process food when a giant bear is about to attack!
The autonomic nervous system (ANS) is comprised of two parts- sympathetic and parasympathetic. The sympathetic nervous system sends signals to put your body on high alert. The parasympathetic nervous system sends signals to relax the body after periods of stress or danger.
The parasympathetic nervous system is most helpful to proper digestion as it controls the “rest and digest” mode. It stimulates salvia, which aids in breaking down food, via enzymes located within the salvia.
Our stress response has direct impact over our digestion and metabolism. If we are constantly rushing through meals, eating in a high-alert state, or living a life full of anxiety and stress, our digestive system will truly suffer. As mentioned prior, we can help our digestive system return to a state of calm by slowing down when eating.
Take time to enjoy your food and remind yourself how wonderful it is to be able to nourish our bodies with healing foods. Even taking deep breaths before picking up a fork, will cause us to bring ourselves back to our body and become fully present.
As your Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, I am here to help you explore all aspects of who you are, not just what you eat. Helping you to have a deeper understanding of your body and how every part of it works together, will also help you to have a strong foundation of overall digestive wellness.