The Mind in your Gut
Functional Nutrition looks at the powerful intersection between food, physiology and psychology. It is truly mind body nutrition. It is the area where everything is interconnected. Our food, our body and our mind. True Mind Body Nutrition is who we are after the food we eat
Where did your Gut originate from?
Someone recently told me that he thought food was important for health but he didn’t believe that it could influence who we are. That’s when I thought I had to write about this before anything else.
Have you ever watched the movie The Parent Trap? Identical twins Hallie and Annie are separated after their parents divorce. Years later, they discover each other at a summer camp. Hallie and Annie, after fighting and being sentenced to isolation until camp is over, discover that they are twin sisters, who cannot naturally hate each other, as much as they tried. The story goes through them switching places and living each other’s lives with the opposite parent and finally bringing the parents back together, for Hallie and Annie belong together. They’ve discovered in the short while of knowing that they are identical, what upsets one upsets the other, and that they want the best for each other no matter what.
Your gut and your brain are like Hallie and Annie, separated at some point, but identical, and eventually realise that what upsets one upsets the other, or from another perspective, what supports one benefits the other as well!
In early Embryonic stages, the same clump of tissue is the root of your gut and your brain. As the embryo evolves and grows, the brain goes towards the crown and the gut moves to the centre. This doesn’t mean that they are not connected after that. Your brain and your gut are connected via the Vagus nerve. The Vagus nerve is called the Wanderer, and for no small reason, as it wanders through your body, reaching many areas, and controlling a great deal.
Since your brain and your gut originated from that same clump of tissue, their root is deeply similar. Your brain is then the primary brain and your gut is your secondary brain! Your brain houses the control centre of your nervous system, and your gut is your Enteric nervous system. It has a mind which is profound.
The Vagus nerve connecting the two, creates the deep gut-brain axis. Your Enteric nervous system is located in the tissue around your esophagus, stomach, small intestine and colon. It controls your entire gastrointestinal function. But this is no small role.
Being connected to the brain via the Vagus nerve, which is a super highway, how your gut feels impacts your brain, and how your brain feels impacts your gut. This can be both good and bad. This of course means that when you feel angry or depressed, you either cannot eat or your digestion is impaired, and if your digestion is impaired you feel anxious or depressed. But we forget. This also means we have great power. And in the words from Spiderman, with great power comes great responsibility.
If we eat responsibly, we have the power in our hands to feel calm, happy and balanced, initiating a powerful mind that works and supports us towards greater goals. If we don’t eat nurturing and nutrition rich food, we can actually harm our gut, and harm our minds. This can make us feel everything from pain to overwhelm, sadness to anger, dejection to exhaustion.
This confirms the Bidirectional movement of the gut brain axis, and explains the psychology of both via the Vagus nerve connection.
Psychology of our physiology looks deep within the space of the mind that exists in our body, and how we can deeply create powerful change using the principles and practices of Functional Nutrition.
Exploring the psychology of our Gut
Creating change through therapeutic food
Your gut and your brain are like Identical twins really. When one gets disturbed so does the other. Remember that feeling of butterflies in your stomach when you have an impending public talk or when a loved one is terribly sick? Remember when you have lunch after a disturbing argument with someone, how you either have a runny tummy or pain afterwards?
If you explore almost every culture and tradition, prayer before meals was a big part of a family’s lifestyle. Christian homes thanked God for the food they were about to receive. Muslims prayed and their prayer physiologically soothed digestion. Hindus looked at food as part of something greater.
And those who were not religious, spent a moment smelling the wonderful aroma of the food, and really worshipped the flavour. This sight and smell of food stimulated a nerve impulse that went right upto the Hypothalamus in the brain, which stimulated the Medulla Oblongata, travelled down the Vagus nerve and stimulated more saliva, so the digestive system was ready to receive food. All of these extra few moments spent before a meal, were potent and powerful tools to calm the brain and nurture the gut. That few seconds more gave time to activate digestion.
So finding an affirmation that works for you personally is a powerful tool for your gut. It need not be prayer. If it is a prayer which is a crutch for you personally, then that’s great. If not try this affirmation…
“My body heals and strengthens with every bite I take.”
This is a prayer to you. To your gut. To your brain.
So begin to nurture your gut. Understand the psychology of your gut. Know that your gut has a mind. Know that your gut controls your brain and your brain controls your gut. Both are equal partners, and for a truly beneficial relationship, both have to be taken care of equally.