Just because digestion is all about the food doesn’t mean it’s all about the food
I first came to Restorative Exercise in 2010. I had a myriad of body pains that weren’t being helped by conventional medicine and therapy.
You might have read about my chronic and persistent back pain prior to starting these gentle and mindful alignment practices.
I also suffered from stomachaches and had a very sensitive gut. It didn’t take much before I would curl into a pretzel after a meal, and holiday meals were torture. Some days, even a cup of tea would piss my stomach off.
Needless to say, I was tired of it and ready to try anything.
I was surprised to find that it wasn’t rocket science to help myself digest better. Between doing gentle tension releasing and breathing exercises, changing some postural habits, choosing to wear different clothes, and really being mindful of how I created my own tension and physical patterns of stress – it only took a few months for me to feel significantly better.
I was kind of surprised because for a long long time, I had been putting all my eggs in one basket – I was really looking at what I was eating and drinking, or even taking more and more sophisticated supplements to heal my belly, yet had never looked at my movement habits or the state of my nervous system. When you can learn complicated words like “zonulin” or “tight junctions”, why look at your breathing, right? It can’t be that simple…
You’ve probably done something to support your gut health just like me– like taken probiotics or excluded processed grains and sugar. Maybe you even went gluten-free. But sometimes, that doesn’t help enough and just leaves some of us more confused and frankly, discouraged.
It’s not that nutrition is not important, it is. But, if that’s not what’s driving the issue, it won’t be what solves it either.
Many coaching clients come to us after they’ve been told they have leaky gut, or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, or simply because doctors can’t do anything more about their constipation…
Instead of asking them what they eat (we do that later), we first ask these questions:
– How many hours a day do you sit, and can you show us a picture of you sitting in your workspace in your usual and most comfortable posture?
– Do you have a daily practice to relieve stress?
– Describe the typical clothes you wear?
– Have you had any abdominal surgeries or falls on your sacrum and tailbone?
– How long do you walk daily?
– Is it easy and effortless to take a satisfying deep breath?
Of course, you, just like them might wonder, what does that matter? What do clothes have to do with my constipation or SIBO? Who cares if I walk?
But here’s the thing – digestion is not just about what goes in your mouth. We so wish it was, it would make our work and the work of NDs and RDs we collaborate with easier.
In reality, food and drink are really low on the totem pole of why digestion has been hampered in the first place and being told you need to continue to make your diet stricter or different might be barking up the wrong tree.
In our experience, once an acute illness is ruled out, in most chronic cases the two main reasons most people complain about digestion are nervous system dysregulation and lack of organ mobility and motility.
See, our organs need mobility and motility — movement from the outside and movement of the digestive system itself in order for the food to be guided along — for the proper digestive juices containing enzymes to be secreted, and for the appropriate time between eating and elimination to pass…otherwise processes might stagnate and symptoms arise and persist.
Often, scar tissue, old inflammation, falls to the pelvis and other injuries may lead to the organs not moving well relative to each other.
In those cases we might refer you to someone who can manually help you with visceral manipulation or Arvigo. For more about these manual therapy options, listen to our Free the Belly Podcast episode, with digestive specialist and practitioner extraordinaire Barbara Loomis or refer to her self-study course.
the two main reasons most people complain about digestion are nervous system dysregulation and lack of organ mobility and motility
I was talking to my physical therapist recently about this. Manual work can make a world of difference, yet no matter how exquisite the manual therapy is that we get, no amount of it can balance the accumulated hours of poor sitting, lack of deep breathing and movement and the plight and pressure of restrictive clothing.
In fact, many of us need to include specific movements to support digestion and targeted practices to reduce stress.
While understanding how the movement of your body affects digestion might require some insight into biomechanics, the effect stress has on the gut is a lot more straightforward.
When the autonomic nervous system is responding to a stimulus with activating the nerves that exit the spine and mobilize us for a fight or flight response, the gut shuts down.
It’s a simple as that.
We don’t start to digest again, until we’ve relaxed…which in today’s day and age might be never.
Some people are so habituated to living in this heightened state that they might even wonder what’s wrong with everyone else who is so slow, not producing, rushing and responding to demands every moment of the day.
All that to say, friends, the power is in your hands
- You can reduce stress right now through learning about and engaging the body’s relaxation response.
- You can start to increase the mobility and motility of your organs with simple exercises.
- You can become mindful of your daily activities and support your digestion with simple actions like switching tight clothing for comfortably fitting outfits that let you relax your gut without worry, paying attention to skeletal alignment and the way you breathe.
I’ve done the work of laying it all out for you, in the video below, and if something in you tugs you in this direction, jump in.
Start with my introductory video, below, then click here to get the next three.
Are you ready to get started?
Just click here and let’s get started with the three-day sequence I talk about in the video.
It’s totally free and it’s my gift to you!
When you know what’s going on with your body and you start to see changes, it’s that much easier for us to take you further in your self-care, and help you experience a free and happy life in your body!
And that’s why we are here — to empower you to take the first step and be with you as long as you need guidance and support!