Correlation between the Mind, Body and Soul
A long long time ago people used to end their day’s work and relax. There were no constant device beeping for attention, no smart tv with multiple movie trailers, no social media notifications constantly updating the vacation spots of friends.
Kids played outdoors instead of on iPads. Today we see multiple workshops, apps, retreats, therapist and holistic healers offering to help us detox from all this mind numbing content. The reason is our body , mind and soul are all connected to each other and how we treat one effects the other.
How is our gut connected to our brain and what does that mean for us?
During the first half of the 17th century, alchemist and physician Jan Baptist van Helmont (1580–1644) was interrupted one day while he was spending a day in his lab conducting experiments on wolfsbane – a highly toxic flower sometimes called the ‘queen of poisons’. Later in the evening, he began to feel odd and wrote, “I felt that I did understand, conceive, savour, or imagine nothing in the head, but rather, that I understood and imagined in the midriffs.”
What van Helmont was experiencing was what we know as the ‘gut feeling’, a powerful sense of his emotions, perceptions, and maybe even his whole identity being somehow inextricably tied to his digestive tract. How is this possible?
Our 10th cranial nerve called the vagus nerve connects the gut and the brain causing signals & messages go back and forth from both ends. The gut has its own nervous system called the enteric nervous system that houses our gut microbes which are in constant communication with the nervous system in the brain. They influence our emotions by generating and modulating signals the gut send to the brain. So what starts as an emotion in the brain influences the gut and then the signals generated by the microbes communicated back to the brain can even reinforce or prolong the mental state we are in . Another reason the gut is linked to depression as well is because 70% of the serotonin ( the happy hormone) is made in the gut by the microbes!
What we eat and our relationship to food reveals how the mind, brain and gut are all interconnected. The interactions between them can either make us more prone to diseases or help reach an optimal state of wellness.
Did you know the gut mirrors every emotion that arises in your brain and is in fact the drama theatre in which the emotions play out. When the brain perceives a threat- it signals the hypothalamus to release a critical stress molecule called CRF that send the brain and body into stress response mode.
As CRF rises, it switches every organ and cell of your body into stress mode.
In the brain this spike increase the feeling of anxiety making one more sensitive to sensations in the gut which are experienced as severe belly pain.
The Gut contracts more resulting in diarrhoea.
The gut wall becomes leakier, the colon secretes more water and mucus and the amount of blood flowing through the lining of our stomach and intestine increases.
So you can see emotions impact not just your stomach but your entire digestive tract.
This CRF also regulates the cortisol produced by your adrenal glands. When you are stressed the adrenal gland starts pumping out cortisol increasing the level in the bloodstream which prepares the body for the expected increased metabolic demand. Our cortisol levels getting imbalanced is not good because cortisol maintains proper fat, protein and carb metabolism and helps keep the immune system in check.
Today as more of us try to return to a soul driven life , we find ourselves turning towards a nutritious diet, healthy living and mindful practices like meditation, breathing, yoga etc. Enhancing one aspect is the only way to enhance all other aspects of our life and live to our true potential.