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Gut feelings are a real thing!

Updated: Oct 6, 2023

The idea for this post came to me during some challenging moments my in life. When my mood was low, I felt stressed and anxious. We all know it. We all have it sometimes. What drew my attention at this time was that I was hungry literally all the time. Even after the solid, nutritious meal, I could shortly feel uncomfortable sucking in my stomach and a strong urgency to eat something. I was doing some research about this and found information about psychological/non-physical hunger.



Physical hunger develops gradually over some time. It often occurs several hours after a meal. It is accompanied by physical symptoms such as hunger pangs, stomach noises, decreased energy, difficulty concentrating and making decisions, lightheadedness, headache, shakiness, irritability, and even nausea. With physical hunger, one experiences satisfaction after eating, and this hunger disappears after reaching satiety.


Non-physical hunger tends to have a quick onset and is unrelated to the timing of the most recent meal and can persist despite a person reaching physical satiety. After eating to fulfill non-physical hunger, one often experiences negative feelings such as guilt and shame.


I realized that my problem may not be the food I eat but probably it lies deep in my psyche. So I started digging in. What helped the most, among many other things, was Ayurveda and its unique perspective on the human body. I will write about this more in the further part of this post. But first I would like to feed you with a little bit of raw, science-based knowledge about the connection of our mood and the abdominal area of our bodies.


Gut feelings and Vagus Nerve


You may have heard that the gut used to be called the ‘second brain’. Mainly because there is a very complex neural network in the digestive tract (enteric nervous system). Almost as big as in our brains. This means that these two - the gut and the brain, are the most complex regions of the whole nervous system.


The bowel and brain communicate through the Vagus Nerve which also has contact with other important organs. It is the longest nerve in our body and its dysregulation can cause serious health conditions. Irritation or diseased intestines often cause communication disruptions along the vagus nerve route which can often result in anxiety or even depression. Since 2010 stimulating the vagus nerve has been the official method to treat depression.


source: https://www.optimusmedica.com/vagus-nerve/



Now we know how it works that the condition of our guts can affect our mood. It is really worth taking care of these parts of our body, for example by proper diet, regular physical activity, and stress reduction. And here comes to help an Ayurveda.


Ayurveda


Ayurveda is a traditional Indian medicine system. According to that philosophy, the human being is a replica of the cosmos because it is made of the same components, i.e. the elements of nature (fire, water, air, earth, and aether). Looking this way, if the body is a cosmos, then the physical and metaphorical center of it is our abdomen.


Naval is considered to be a special place that symbolically connects us with our ancestors as the umbilical cord connects us physically to our mother.


The abdominal area is a home for many important organs of our body and now we also know that there is our ‘second brain’ that communicates with the real brain.


Ayurveda recognized this connection long before the discoveries of western medicine. According to this old system, the condition of the organs can tell us about specific psychological/emotional issues of the human being. It is a very complex system of knowledge but here are some examples of how it can be understood:


Bladder - feeling of pressure and frustration can weaken this organ

Liver - weakens when a person tends to act out of irritation

Stomach - related to the current everyday situations because it reacts to stress very quickly

Spleen - it corresponds to how we see ourselves and how strong our self-destructive tendencies are; the honest practice of self-love and self-care can strengthen this organ


All this information made me realize that I should pay more attention to the correlations between my emotional state and the feelings that occur inside my belly.


Ayurveda is a very wide and complex system and I’ve presented just a small piece of it related to the topic of the abdomen. What I like about it is that Ayurveda assumes that we consist of the same components (fire, water, air, earth, and aether), but this mixture of elements looks different for everyone. For example, one person's constitution may be dominated by the fire element and another person's by the air element, and this makes the needs of the body and mind different. Ayurveda uses tools that help determine which elements are dominant in a particular person. Then, based on this information, you can adjust your eating habits or exercises. I am not specializing in that field so if you find it interesting I recommend looking for a specialist who can help you define your constitution and then move it further.


But the most important (in my opinion) is to develop a will to constantly observe and learn about your body. Pay attention to how you react after eating certain food. Pay attention while you eat, be aware of every bite you take and of the chewing process. Open up for the signals and listen to what your body is trying to tell you.


All the abdominal organs are surrounded by a group of core muscles. I recommend to check out my post about it to supplement your knowledge on how to consciously work with the abdominal and pelvic area. Click the button below to read the post.



If you’d like to explore this topic further with me I encourage you to check out the meditation I have created to help you connect with sensations from your belly and give a little love to that part of your body. Available in english, polish and norwegian.




sources:


‘Gut: The Inside Story of Our Body's Most Underrated Organ’ Giulia Enders

Content of ‘Rozluźnianie i uzdrawianie Brzucha’ workshops by Ayurveda specialist Justyna Szydło






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