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  • Writer's pictureAnna Rathbun, NC

Digestion Starts in the Brain #1

Digestion starts in the brain

When we think, smell or even hear food cooking, digestion starts. Have you ever sat down at a restaurant thinking “I’m not really hungry”, but then you begin looking at the menu and by the time you order you’re ravenous and the food doesn’t come fast enough?

This is because the actual idea of food – the mental thought of a Caesar salad or a teriyaki stir fry, triggers juices in the stomach to begin digesting your food. We can use this process to our advantage – intentionally increasing digestive power to prevent indigestion, heartburn, bloating or bowel problems. Indigestion occurs when we don’t let the brain relax and think about food to trigger digestive juices.

Stress or digest

The brain can put energy into the arms, legs and problem solving (stress, fight or flight) or it can put energy into the digestive system (rest and digest) but it can’t do both simultaneously. In a healthy body, the brain can switch to putting energy into digestion at the thought of food. After too much stress, we get stuck in fight or flight mode and can’t turn on digestion at the thought of food. This means food gets put into the stomach without the digestive juices to break it down, causing indigestion, heartburn, bloating or bowel problems.

We have to find a way to help the body switch from stress to digest. Yes, we can use herbs to trigger digestive juices and to calm the adrenal glands. We can supplement hydrochloric acid, enzymes, bile and probiotics. Herbs and supplements are great, but nothing is as effective as learning to relax and allow your own body to make its own digestive juices.

Turning on digestion

The fastest way to turn off stress and turn on digest is to take slow deep breaths. Sit quietly with your back straight and take a very slow deep breath, feeling the air fill your lungs so your chest expands. When you exhale slowly, feel the abdomen squeezing at the end to push all the air out of your lungs. Take 3 slow deep deep breaths 3 times per day for 3 days and let me know how your stomach feels.

Thanks for being here - I appreciate your interest. If you have any questions or feed back set up a time to talk about digestive and autoimmune health here.

This is the first in a series of digestive blogs - to continue reading click here.


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