Last week I wrote about the connection between the gut and the brain, and how all kinds of unpleasant malarkey can go on up there when our tummies are out of whack. I didn’t even mention that 90% of the serotonin in our bodies is actually in out gut! As Earth Warriors we face enough strife in our outer lives without our own bodies throwing doomy and gloomy thoughts at us at us, we need them working hard FOR our mental health, right!
This week we’re continuing the theme of how awesome a healthy gut is. Here’s another fact: randomised trials in New Zealand and Alberta following natural disasters (the 2011 earthquakes and 2013 wildfires respectively) showed that people coped significantly better to the stress of it all when they had more vitamins and minerals. While that may be a good ad for multivitamins, I reckon it’s just another pointer to say that people to whom stress is no stranger (i.e. us) really benefit from a nutrient dense diet that looks after the gut so that digestive processes are optimal and we’re able to extract all the good stuff. After all, there’s no substitute for nature.
In a cruel twist of irony though, when we are stressed our bodies release stress hormones, and one of the errands they run is to the gut to tell it ‘hey we’re going to divert the energy body was giving you over to the feet so they’re ready to run’. In fact I don’t know that they bother with the communication, the blood supply just gets cut right down. You know when you’re anxious and you lose your appetite or feel a bit nauseous? That’s what that is. With reduced blood supply we don’t uptake those vitamins and minerals nearly as well, and our emotional stress can build.
Another of the body’s physiological responses to stress is shallow breathing, where we only use the upper portion of our lungs, again purportedly so we’re ready to run (they don’t call it fight or flight for nothing!). Our poor gut down lower in the abdomen starts missing out on it’s nice massage. It can get stressed, and things can start to go awry such as bacteria getting out of whack and going places they shouldn’t go. Hello SIBO and candida; I can recommend not getting those. Oh the downward spiral. Do you know how many Earth Warrior’s I’ve met with digestive complaints?!? Lots. We have to start addressing this guys, so we can be more resilient.
According to Dr Libby, the breath is actually a portal out of fight or flight mode when we use it consciously. All we have to do is take long slow breaths deep into our abdomen. I picture the breath going right down to my pelvis. You should feel your hands raise and fall if you place them below your belly button. The brain recognises that deep, restorative breaths are mutually exclusive to life threatening situations, and enables us to switch to ‘rest and digest’ mode, known by others as ‘breed and feed’. Either way, that’s where we want to be most of the time. Then, not only are we happily romanced, we also have a body that has a veritable stockpile of vitamins and mineral, so when the odd really stressful situation does come along we will get through it much better. I liken it to a stream that has healthy riparian vegetation. A storm will stir things up but it will recover way quicker than the stream that is stressed by constant cattle impact.
This week’s challenge is to check in with your breath several times through each day, and make sure it’s nice and deep.
If you want to know more about the science you can read Dr Libby’s books, she’s fantastic!
For more stress-busting breathing techniques and general soulstainability tips, download your free copy of my ebook ‘Beginners Guide to Soulstainability’, and you’ll be on my email list to be the first to know about my spring program where we’ll polish up our gut looking-after together.