Have you ever heard the term "anxious belly"? It's more than just a turn of phrase! Our emotions are connected to our GI health in ways that science is just beginning to explain. Many people call this the Gut-Brain Connection.
Our nervous and digestive functions go hand-in-hand. In fact, when the nervous system is overly stressed, the digestive system turns off. Just how there is a spectrum of stress levels, there is a spectrum of how our digestive system is affected.
Perhaps you notice that on extra stressful days you don't have an appetite or you have increased belching or gas. Maybe stress from travel makes you constipated, or you get diarrhea before a big meeting. All of these GI symptoms are directly related to emotions.
I'd like to offer some simple tips to help regulate emotions for soothing the gut.
1. Cross Crawl -- cross crawl is a way of moving the body that coordinates opposite sides of the body to work together. Examples include walking, running, swimming, and crawling. Cross crawl movement helps build a bridge between the right and left hemispheres of the brain, which in turn re-organizes the mind-body connection. Studies show the emotional benefits of cross-crawling occur with 20 consecutive minutes per day. Remember: keep hands free so that your arms swing!
2. Free Writing -- I've never been a fan of journaling, but when my emotions get out of whack, 20 minutes of free, un-edited, pen-to-paper, non-stop-no-matter-what, word vomit really helps clear my head. This writing is of course for your eyes only. When stress starts to take its toll, do 20 minutes of free writing for 4 days in a row. Pair it with 20 minutes of cross crawl afterward to help the mind-body sort things out.
3. EFT/Tapping -- Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) is perhaps the most powerful and useful tool I have in my mental health kit. EFT taps on acupuncture points to rewire destructive internal messages regarding stress, guilt, shame, judgement, etc. The technique is simple, easy, and the effects are long-lasting! GI expert, Dr. Crane Holmes created instructions for doing EFT at home. Click here to download the handout.
Recipe for Emotional and GI health:
2 rounds of tapping -- release the drama from the trauma
20 minutes of free writing -- get it out!
20 minutes of cross crawling -- rebalance the brain
Repeat as needed