The brain sends signals to the digestive system via the sympathetic (fight or flight) and parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest). Any disturbance to the homeostasis of signalling from these two can affect our food digestion by altering the nutrient absorption, stimulation of digestive enzymes and increasing production of inflammatory cytokines.
In my last post, I talked about the Enteric Nervous system and its role in our digestion. The ENS also receives signals from the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system and functions independently.
Due to the strong connection between the brain and gut, emotions such as stress, anxiety, sadness, depression, fear and anger can affect the way our gastrointestinal system functions. These triggers can slow down or speed up GI tract mobility and its contents causing sensitivity to pain signals, bloating and increase intestinal permeability consequently leading to leaky gut and inflammatory diseases.
However, meditation and deep breathing techniques have shown to slow down the sympathetic nervous system by increasing oxygen supply. During stress, our body prioritises blood supply to organs that will assist us in “fight or flight” which, digestive system isn’t one of them. Hence, meditation can improve our digestion by increasing blood circulation to our gastrointestinal system and promoting rest and digest.
A 30 minutes daily meditation has shown to improve overall gut health, microbial balance and cerebral cortex of the brain (processes information and memory). Fun facts about meditation:
• Free of charge
• Can be done in the comfort of your home
• Doesn’t require an intense workout
• No side effects or contraindications