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Meditation and bloating
Posted 6 months ago by Katie
Meditation is a practice that alters your consciousness, but could it also alter your gut flora and help to reduce bloating and other digestive complaints? We are living in interesting times and life is getting increasingly busy and challenging for us all. We are finding that we are increasingly not only having to digest food these days, but thoughts, emotions, global conflicts, and the accelerating pace of information and daily communications. A Digital detox can be a great way to declutter the thinking mind and support digestion and bloating, but so can a simple daily meditation practice. You may have gone through every food elimination diet out there, even tried rebalancing your gut bacteria with probiotics, and nothing seems to be helping with your bloating. But have you tried eliminating the negative thoughts and self talk from your mind? If this is the case it may be time to bring some mindfulness practices in to your lifestyle to support your digestion.
Modern Day Life and Bloating-Mind, Body, Gut.
How do we slow down in such an increasingly fast paced world and maintain a resilient mind, body, gut? Modern life is hectic and our brains are struggling to keep up with the technological advances of the digital age. Our innate stress response is going in to overdrive as our busy lives our demanding more and more from us. It is easy to feel overwhelmed emotionally and physically, which is where our digestion and gut flora can suffer. Before the age of the internet if we wanted to get in touch with someone we would have to write a considered letter, post it and then wait for a reply which could take days/weeks. Now we are bombarded with emails every minute of the day and people expect immediate responses. The sharing of our lives/businesses on social media posts and scrolling through other peoples feeds demands a lot of our time and head space and takes us out of the present moment. Our brains are having to process far more information than our ancestors had to and this is reducing the time we take to rest, reflect, and digest. We are spending more time in the fight or flight sympathetic branch of our nervous systems and less time in the parasympathetic mode where we are more efficient at digesting our food and healing. Indigestion, bloating, and flatulence can be the result of undigested foods and emotions fermenting in our guts. If your finding it hard to swallow thoughts, emotions, and worries about the future this could be contributing to your bloating and other digestive symptoms. We are all familiar with the link between stress and IBS-Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and as a nutritional therapist I see many clients coming in with digestive problems due to prolonged stress and anxiety in their lives. This generation has been coined ‘Generation Stress’ and building resilience with self care practices is going to be key in counteracting the daily stresses of modern life and improving our mental wellbeing. Meditation can be a great way to alleviate abdominal bloating and discomfort as stress triggers the release of cortisol and cortisol contributes to water retention and bloating. Stress accumulates as a result of the fight or flight mode and has a negative effect on our digestion, which ultimately shuts down.
How can Meditation help with bloating?
The benefits of meditation are far reaching in reducing stress and anxiety, supporting digestion, and influencing healthy food choices. The act of being quiet, sitting, and being with the breath will ensure that we spend more time hanging out in the parasympathetic branch of our nervous systems where we can rest and digest our food with ease. Meditation can help us to release accumulated stresses from the mind as a result of our busy lives, which then allows the body to settle and rest at a profound level. That deep rest influences our physiology and allows us to function more optimally at a mental level and physically in terms of digestion and reproductive health. If we don't release those stored up stressors we disrupt our mind body gut balance and symptoms can be expressed throughout the body.
There have been over 600 research studies done on the benefits of meditation by research centres and universities world wide. A daily meditation practice can quieten the mind and balance the nervous system. The nervous system is connected to the digestive system via the vagus nerve which influences the gut brain connection and your ‘gut feelings’. By closing your eyes and breathing deeply you will instantly feel calmer because you are tapping in to your vagus nerve. The vagus nerve is involved in the control of gastrointestinal sensitivity, motility, and inflammation, and is the main component of the gut-brain-axis, via the autonomic nervous system. One research study which looked at the vagus nerve and its effect on gut sensitivity and motility found that by stimulating the vagus nerve we can support the modulation of gastrointestinal functions through mindfulness practices, such as deep breathing and meditation.1
The left side of the brain is our rational side, which allows us to be logical and analytical, and is where thoughts are created. Meditation stimulates right side activation which cultivates awareness of the present moment, intuition, creativity and inner calm. I think that we could all benefit from a meditation practice in these uncertain times as it will allow us to build resilience and stand aside from emotional upheavals.
Lifestyle Hacks to support bloating and keep your digestion healthy:
Deep breathing- Spend 10 mins breathing before food to activate the parasympathetic nervous system and improve stomach acid production, helping to reduce bloating, reflux, and many other symptoms.
Forest bathing- the benefits of spending time in nature are well researched. A walk in the woods will take you away from your screens and bring you in to the present moment.
Gratitude- Upon rising think of 3 things that you are grateful for and start the day with a positive mindset.
Balance your gut bacteria to balance your mood. Take a good quality probiotic with well researched strains such as Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM which has over 45 clinical trials conducted on it in the areas of immune function and Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and antibiotic associated gut disturbances. Strain specificity is key when choosing a probiotic that is right for you.
Mindful Eating. Eat in a relaxed calm environment away from phones and computers. Do not eat on the go, take a moment to acknowledge and anticipate what you are about to eat, and chew thoroughly to support the release of digestive enzymes.
For further information please follow these links:
1 Bona B et al (2016) ‘Vagal tone: effects on sensitivity, motility, and inflammation.’Neurogastroenterology and Motility’ Vol 28, issue 4, pp. 455-462
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