The mind and gut are connected. You may already know that and you may have already experienced that.
Stress, work and financial pressures, emotional hurt, and relationship breakups most often lead to gut disorders.
And the symptoms can hit you anywhere in your gastro-intestinal tract. You may get gassy, bloated, and have acid reflux or heartburn. You can feel nauseous, experience stomach or abdominal pain. Your capacity to eat food can be diminished and you feel full even after eating just a little food.
Your gut feels like it is nervous, uneasy and unsettled.
And this condition is difficult to pinpoint and diagnose. You may have run a battery of tests, consulted with multiple doctors and visited different health facilities, but still come back without a definite conclusion about the origins of your gut problems.
When you start paying attention to the interplay between your mind and gut, you begin to realize how one feeds of the other. Perhaps your problems began with your gut and are now reflected in your mind, or perhaps it is the other way around.
The health of your gastro-intestinal tract reflects the state of your mind.
Ayurveda speaks of the intimate connection between your mental health and digestive health. You can see this by looking at your body and mind and understanding how the principles of doshas affect them.
Your cells are the building blocks in your body. Cells provide structure and support for your tissues and organs, promote growth, allow passive and active transport of nutrients and chemicals, produce energy, and help reproduction.
Doshas in Ayurveda are responsible for regulating all these functions in the cells, and maintaining the state of the entire body and mind. Vata, the chief among all doshas, regulates all movements in the body and mind.
One of the key functions of vata is to regulate the activities of the brain, mind and sense organs (called prana vata). When this function of vata is balanced, you’re able to think clearly, your memory and intellect are working in harmony, and you have will power to carry out your goals.
But stress can agitate and aggravate vata which affects your mind, nervous system, memory, and emotional health.
Your brain and nervous system communicate that stress to the rest of your body. Your stomach and intestines, which have more nerve endings and fibers than your spinal cord, react adversely to the stress and cause all sorts of problems.
According to Ayurveda, this imbalance disturbs the functions of vata in your gut (called samana vata). When this vata is balanced, it transports the food into the stomach and intestines, aids the digestive process, helps separate nutrients from digestive waste, and moves these nutrients to other organs of the digestive system.
When this vata is imbalanced, the digestive process is affected and you start experiencing the various symptoms we already spoke about.
And in order to address your gut disorders caused by mental stress, you start by calming your mind, then strengthening your digestion while simultaneously nourishing your self-confidence and sense of courage.
Oil is a great antidote to counter an aggravated vata. Vata is materially represented by air and space which makes it dry, light, cold, rough, subtle and fast moving. When you’re anxious, you experience vata’s heightened qualities. Your mind races, your heart beats fast, you have a lot of unwanted thoughts and worry, and you have a feeling of impending doom.
Oil, on the other hand, is heavy, viscous, calming and grounding. So, when you use oil, you arrest the rapid movement of vata and bring your body and mind to balance.
Tip: Massage your head and neck in the morning with coconut oil and let it soak for at least 20 minutes. Take a warm shower and wash the oil away.
Yoga postures are a great way to strengthen your digestive system. They can help stimulate your appetite, stretch your abdominal muscles so that food can move more easily down your digestive tract, and improve blood circulation to your digestive organs. Postures can also help your bowel movements and relieve constipation.
Yoga also works on your mental health. Yoga postures can help you release tensions, reduce stress and relax your entire body and mind.
Try this pose to get your gut back on track
Tip: Camel pose: Kneel on a mat with your shoulders and soles of your feet facing up. Keeping your neck neutral, arch your back and slide your hands down your legs and onto your feet until your arms are straight, palms on heels and fingertips pointing toward your toes.
Expand Your Comfort Zone
When you feel anxious, your mind is usually stricken with fear. This fear debilitates you and makes you feel like you won’t know what to do if you venture beyond what you are comfortable with. You can start handling this fear by taking the initiative to venture out of your comfort zone.
But the point is to do this incrementally, so you can experience the exhilaration of taking a risk but not the overwhelm of fear. This will help you develop courage and confidence in yourself and your abilities.
Tip: Pick an area of your life that you’re fearful of or are uncomfortable with. Start small and do something that pushes you beyond your current boundaries. For example, if you feel anxious having a conversation with new people, then start by saying hi to someone new. Once you get comfortable with that, start having longer conversations with people.