Burp…Bloat…Breathe? A Mindful Approach to Better Gut Health
A Mindful Approach to Better Gut Health
Pain and discomfort from bloating are among the top complaints of all GI patients. Whether it’s excess gas resulting from the digestion of certain foods and drinks, or air swallowed while eating or drinking too quickly, the result is the same: pressure, pain, discomfort, bloating, and belching. Those who suffer often reach for medications to help alleviate their symptoms as quickly as possible hoping to counteract their body’s reaction to the food or drink that may be causing their symptoms. These medications are wonderfully effective and can be life-changing for those long-suffering from GERD and acid reflux (another culprit that can contribute to excessive belching), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and other functional GI disorders…but there is more at work in your mind and body than a simple reaction to food and drink.
The mind-body connection is particularly strong along what is called the mind-gut axis, where trillions of microorganisms in your digestive system communicate with trillions of nerve endings lining your entire digestive system. Science continues to expose the importance of this “second brain” in our gut in our mood, our emotions, even our personalities. Because of the mind-gut connection, our gut knows when we’re happy, when we’re sad, when we’re scared, and when we’re comfortable. It reacts differently to different emotional states. Stress, for example, can slow, shut down, and even reverse proper digestion, giving us many of the symptoms that cause us distress. Bloat and belching can both be a result of the stress response in the gut making the normal elimination of gases more difficult. When we’re stressed, our brain releases chemicals that trigger the “fight or flight” response. Our body isn’t capable of knowing the difference between the stress caused by a traffic jam and the stress of being chased by a lion: it simply responds to the chemicals brought on by the stress. The good news is that our brain can. We can use our brains and our thoughts to reach into our coping toolbox and determine which events may be creating an incongruous physical response to a given situation. We can then take a mindful approach to slow down or eliminate the stress response and send the “all is well” signal to our gut and help return it to normal function.
Here are 3 mindful approaches to send the “All Clear” signal to your gut and help alleviate bloating and belching.
- Breathe: Diaphragmatic Breathing has been shown to aid digestion and ease symptoms like dyspepsia (indigestion), nausea, bloating, reflux, and belching. This form of breathing, which can be practiced in just a few minutes several times throughout the day serves several functions in signaling to the body to return to normal function. https://www.uofmhealth.org/conditions-treatments/diaphragmatic-breathing-gi-patients
- Increase Awareness: Listen to your body. Our gut gives us an abundance of clues when it begins to feel stress. Try to identify your body’s signals as soon as they happen, so you can use your mind to make the necessary shifts from fight/flight to stability and head off the symptoms before they become severe.
- Stay in the Present: Anxiety and stress can live in past and the future. If we’re ruminating on something we “shoulda” done differently, or we’re worried about something in the future, we are essentially triggering our body to respond to something we have little control over. If we can ground ourselves in the present, we can use tools (like 1 and 2 above) to calm ourselves down and focus on what’s right in front of us.
If you are interested in learning how to apply these techniques to help address your symptoms or if you need assistance in figuring out if these are the right treatment options for you, please call 224.407.4400 or visit www.compgihealth.com to make an appointment.