By: Carol Heckman, RN, CNHP, MH, CNC
Your intestinal tract (both the small and large intestines) is home to a large garden of microbes that are vital for mental and physical health. This garden is called the Gut Microbiome.
In years to come, our microbiome may be considered an organ itself. It’s that powerful. Studies are confirming that we’re actually more microbe cells than human; and, each of us has a unique, personal “cloud” of microbes that interact and keep us healthy.
Recently, our sanitized lifestyle and germ-fear has decreased the variety and viability of the good microbes in our gut gardens. The less helpful microbes, the weeds, are taking over. This is profoundly impacting the mental and physical health of all individuals, young and old through increased problems with: allergies, weight management, anxiety, depression, PTSD, brain fog, fatigue, hormone imbalances, auto immune conditions, and cognitive imbalances, to name a few.
What’s affecting your gut? Get an easy checklist to improve your intestinal health…
Microbiome and your health
The millions of microbes in your gut are integral to digesting, absorbing, creating nutrients and eliminating waste. Science has shown these microbes are important in sustaining a healthy immune system by feeding the GALT system (Gut Associated Lymphoid Tissue).
In addition to intestinal health, the microbiome plays a key role in brain and nervous system wellness – through the Vagus Nerve and the Enteric Nervous System that connects the gut and brain.
Have you ever gotten that gut-feeling? Microbes “tickle” nerve endings that communicate with these nerves and send signals to the brain. The gut microbiome is also key in producing chemicals and neurotransmitters that calm your moods and create emotional wellbeing.
Research is showing how negative-impacts may progressively weaken the microbiome and thus profoundly impact mental and physical health. These negative impacts include:
- Stress and trauma
- Poor food choices/quality of food
- Lack of sleep
- Environmental toxins
- Antibiotics and other medications
Gut health self-care checklist: 10 tips
How are you tending to your garden? Here are the suggestions I give to all of my clients. If you are not doing these now, start with one thing and build from there.
- I take time to chew the food in my mouth to pulp for better digestion.
- I eat real foods and limit processed and fast foods.
- I eat slowly and until I am 80% full.
- I make half of my plate vegetables for the fiber to feed my gut microbes.
- I eat fermented foods regularly to feed my gut microbes.
- I have a bowel movement every day. (If you experience constipation, try eating apples: an apple a day keeps the doctor away!)
- I take a probiotic daily to support healthy gut balance.
- I am active, moving my body every day.
- I am in bed for a good night’s sleep by 10pm.
- I have self-care tools and resources that support me mentally and emotionally to adapt to stress.
For individual guidance, schedule a consultation with me.
Carol is a Registered Nurse, as well as a Certified Natural Health Practitioner, a Master Herbalist, and a Certified Nutritional Consultant.
Using your built-in navigation system…
By: Lisa Manning, CST, CHt
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth…
– Robert Frost
We’re all faced with ‘roads’ throughout our lives, the sum of these choices charts our life paths. To navigate, you’re born with a deep inner ‘knowing.’
While intellect and rational thought plays an important part in decision-making, you can move through these choice points with greater ease and success if you know how to trust your gift of instinct. At-home mindfulness exercises can help.
Your emotional guidance system
This instinctive gut-brain connection is real: it’s your enteric nervous system (which Carol explained in her intestinal health article this month), which is ‘on’ in the background all of the time. That gut-feeling in your abdomen (stomach and intestines) picks up on information before you even have time to mentally process it and react.
When you’re scared, or not sure what choice to make, the body’s first reaction to this distress is immediate physical ‘guarding.’ The abdomen, chest, throat and/or jaw often respond by clenching. Even mild distress can develop into patterns of habitual guarding, creating chronic tension and pain.
From a mindfulness perspective, those symptoms are simply information! Now that you’re aware of what is happening, you can use the body’s guarding process as a tool for guidance.
Learning to navigate using your gut instinct
Often, our human tendency is to try to emotionally and physically escape discomfort, by either drowning it out or ignoring it. This shuts down your inner compass and leads to a sense of disconnection and disorientation.
It’s challenging to feel self-acceptance, self-trust and self-determination when you’re disconnected from your deep, intuitive knowing. But, learning to metaphorically come ‘into’ the physical body, in quiet reflection and awareness, teaches balance.
Instinctive knowing is sensory not verbal! This is a time to turn down the volume on thoughts and analysis, and tune into sensations, visuals and feelings.
Here is an exercise for tuning into the ‘gut brain’ for guidance:
- Find a quiet place to relax where you won’t be disturbed.
- Think of a situation or decision that is a current challenge.
- As you contemplate the challenge, sink into your body and feel the area around your lower abdomen/intestinal area. Is it tight, uncomfortable? Use it as an emotional barometer.
- Identify the choices/paths that could change and improve the situation.
- Visualize each factor in rich detail; take your time here, the more sensory input the better. As if you could look into a magic ball, see the desired outcome playing out in full color. You can give it your own musical score, too!
- Sense the changes in your abdomen. Look for an aha-moment, in which your abdomen softens, and you might sigh, or feel some other sense of physical calming and release.
- The answers are apparent when you’re at peace and feeling a sense of comfort. Your deep physical instinct knows the path to follow.
- Thank your body for being such a finely-tuned instrument for interacting with the world.
Have fun with it!
Lisa is a licensed Craniosacral Therapist. She’s also a Master Certified Hypnotherapist, specializing in Somato-Emotional Hypnosis to address chronic pain and anxiety. Lisa’s also a trained Ionic Foot Detox practitioner.
By: Cathy Logan, CHC, COT, CECP
Everything in the universe is made up of energy: whether it manifests in a physical form (such as lightning) or remains invisible. Not only are you made up of energy, but other forms of energy (we can’t see) pass through your body all of the time, such as radio waves, x-rays, thought waves and emotions.
So what does ‘energy’ have to do with your intestines? You can feel energy in the form of emotions; and, if negative emotions become trapped within your body, this energy can adversely affect your health. Certain emotions can even affect the function of specific organs, such as your intestines.
Are emotions, or other factors, affecting your intestinal health? How do you know? What are the symptoms? And, what can you do to improve balance and function?
The small intestine’s main responsibility is absorbing nutrients from food. It sorts the food we eat into nutrients to be used by the body and excess to be passed as waste; essentially, separating pure from impure.
Symptoms of a small intestine imbalance may include:
- Bloating and gas
- Pain in the lower back and knees
- Skin rashes or dryness
In particular, you wouldn’t necessary think intestinal and skin health are related. However, skin problems can occur when the small intestine is imbalanced and less able to absorb nutrients that the body needs. Since the skin is one of the last organs to receive nutrients from the small intestine, it may then show symptoms from this deficiency.
Many times, the underlying cause of small intestine distress is from trapped emotions. Some emotions associated with this organ are: abandonment, betrayal, insecurity, heartache, and love and effort un-received (lack of acknowledgement of your efforts by others).
Restoring health can be as simple as identifying the emotion, through muscle-testing, and then releasing it energetically to balance the small intestine.
The colon, or large intestine, is very vulnerable to negative energies, especially excesses of melancholic emotions such as: discouragement, grief, self-abuse and rejection. Deep insecurities also have a negative impact on the colon.
These emotional disturbances can produce disorders in your large intestine, including:
- IBS and colitis
- Diverticulitis and diverticulosis
When trapped emotions manifest in the colon, I help clients using Emotion Code. It’s the same kinesiology-based method I use to identify and release negative energies for small intestinal health.
Emotional hygiene is just as important to small and large intestinal health as proper nutrition, sleep, exercise and meditation. Being aware of and tending to the energies around you, and inside your body (especially emotions), will help you to maintain balance and live a vibrant life.
As always, we at Chesapeake Holistic are here to help you!
Cathy is a Certified Health Coach, and a Certified ONDAMED® Technician and Emotion Code® Practitioner. She is also trained in Ionic Foot Detox.
by: Glynda Cullen, LMT, LE
How often have you heard the phrase “trust your gut?” This is more than just a common anecdote referencing intuition, it turns out: it’s science and a foundation of Ayurveda, an ancient healthcare tradition.
The enteric nervous system (ENS) governs the GI tract’s assimilation of food – and this primal gut-brain connection is also responsible for assimilating thoughts and emotions. So, any problems you have digesting food or assimilating stimuli (physically, mentally or emotionally) threaten your stomach health.
What to do? At-home Ayurvedic stomach massage is easy to learn. Do it whenever your gut tells you to…
The brain-stomach connection
Your ENS is a superhighway of constant chemical and hormonal communication between the gut and brain – via nerves as complex as those in the spine. So, your gut communicates pain or discomfort to your brain when it’s hungry or scared, or when it’s threatened by disease-making microbes.
Interestingly enough, digestion primarily takes place in your small and large intestines and stomach: commonly referred to as our “core,” which could serve as a frame of reference for saying stomach is the core of our health.
This concept of “core” has been around for thousands of years. According to the time-honored, healing science Ayurveda (which has origins in India), Agni or digestive-fire is the core of a healthy immune system.
Ayurvedic stomach massage
The abdominal cavity houses many vital organs and truly deserves more of your loving attention. It’s true that the stomach is considered a sensitive area to be touched; we carry many emotions here. Nabhi Abhyanga, or Ayurvedic stomach massage, is considered so essential to strong immunity that teachers of this healing art say: “If you do not massage the stomach, why massage at all?”
The warm, trustworthy hands applied to the stomach, during Nabhi Abhyanga, can facilitate the removal of accumulated toxins often referred to as Ama in Ayurvedic teachings. This massage practice is particularly effective for those suffering from IBS or anyone doing a colon cleanse. It’s not uncommon to experience an emotional release, or feeling of lightness, when having this work done.
Before having an abdominal massage, drinking a warm cup of water with lemon encourages the opening and flow within the GI tract that will promote detoxification.
Self-massage is free and very beneficial as well:
- Lie on your back, with legs bent.
- Begin with both hands moving in clockwise circles on your abdomen; the direction your natural digestion flows.
- Now, probe for any tender or sore spots; do small circles in these areas, increasing pressure as you warm up the tissue.
- Next, move up and down, and back and forth into these tender areas.
- Complete your self-massage the way it began, with firm, gentle whole-hand circles on the entire abdomen in a clockwise direction.
- The entire massage should last 20 minutes to be most beneficial.
- You may do a dry-massage or add a small amount of nourishing oil such as sesame, coconut or olive to increase the flushing of the tissues.
- I always recommend following-up any massage with plenty of fresh water to flush out the released toxins. Otherwise, reabsorption can occur and you certainly don’t want that to happen!
Ayurveda offers many more practices to improve your stomach health. You may find the website www.joyfulbelly.com helpful when choosing recipes to nourish your body and stoke your fire!
Next time you receive a healing massage, consider the importance of the stomach to your sense of wellness and immunity.
Glynda is a licensed Massage Therapist and a licensed Esthetician. She is also trained in Ionic Foot Detox practices. She performs therapeutic massage, organic facial treatments, and healing Ionic Foot Detox Baths. (Glynda offers after-hours appointments).
By: Kyle D. McIntyre, PT, DPT, CFMT
In general, people don’t think about their organs when they experience pain; and the stomach, specifically, is often overlooked regarding overall health. It’s really a very important organ: mechanically, (when we eat) the stomach begins churning; while, chemically, enzymes are secreted that break down the food we digest.
What happens when something ‘goes wrong’ with your stomach? People are often aware of what are called “referral patterns” that certain organs have, such as the heart. We all know, for example, that someone having a heart attack may feel symptoms in their left arm or back versus their chest.
Each organ has its own unique referral pattern. So, even if your stomach isn’t in an obvious state of distress, it can still cause referral symptoms throughout your body. One of the stomach’s (and other organs’) referral patterns is musculoskeletal pain.
In my field of functional manual therapy (FMT), organs, such as the stomach, have become an area of increasing focus over the years. What are other signs of stomach-health issues, why does it happen, and how can manual therapy help?
In addition to the referral patterns, organs take up a lot of real estate in the human body. Your trunk (where your stomach is located) is tightly compacted with organs. Each organ needs to move and have room for healthy function of ligament and connective tissue attachments.
If the stomach organ becomes tight or restricted – from a lack of movement, a trauma or blow to the area, or scar tissue from a surgery – movement of your trunk and limbs can be restricted, which can put more stress on your muscles and joints.
Your stomach, therefore, can have associated skeletal restrictions and emotional consequences. Skeletally, your stomach can cause or refer pain to the left side of your neck, your mid-thoracic and upper lumbar spine, your left SI (sacroiliac) joint, and your left shoulder. Emotionally, your stomach represents the social, professional self, which produces the image we give or want to give.
Some signs of mechanical stomach dysfunctions include: left-sided headaches and sinus issues; a heavy appetite with a feeling of quickly filling-up or bloated after eating; heartburn or regurgitation; and/or heart symptoms (such as arrhythmias).
Assessment and manual treatment (by a qualified functional manual therapy practitioner) of your stomach, along with the other organs in your trunk, can improve body mobility and resolution of musculoskeletal pain. FMT can also improve digestion and reduce chronic and sudden conditions, such as bloating and heartburn.
Kyle is a Physical Therapist with a Doctorate in Physical Therapy; he is also a Certified Functional Manual Therapist.