Effects Of Meditation And Mindfulness Apps On The Digestive System

Stress and anxiety have been linked to digestive issues like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), diarrhea, heartburn and GERD, constipation, boating, stomach ulcers, etc. Hence, mindfulness and meditation have often been advocated as practices that can improve your overall gut health, resulting in an efficient digestive system.

What is mindfulness, and how does it impact your digestive system?

Mindfulness comes from the Buddhist concept of awareness, a state of mind where you’re fully aware of your internal and external surroundings and what is happening within and around you. Mindfulness activities suggested by mindfulness apps and subscription platforms help to reduce stress and anxieties, thus reducing the chances of high blood pressure and helping you to manage digestive issues like IBS, GERD, and other digestive disorders.

Practicing mindfulness positively impacts your overall health and outlook by helping your digestive system overcome digestive issues and disorders.

Examples of mindfulness practices that can have positive impacts on your digestive health include:

  •         Being aware of the color, texture, aroma, and flavor of the food you’re about to eat
  •         Chewing your food slowly to help your brain register satisfaction when you’re full.
  •         Avoiding distractions like TV or reading during meal times
  •         Dealing with guilt and anxiety about food

Is meditation different from mindfulness? And how does it affect your digestive health?

Meditation and mindfulness are used interchangeably and sometimes together. However, meditation involves developing your ability to concentrate by channeling your mind (brain) to focus on one purpose (can be relaxation, spiritual, physical, health, or religious). This practice dates back to over 7000 years ago in ancient China and Egypt, where it was used to attain a higher state of spirituality and improved physical state of mind.

Asides from spirituality, meditation can heal your digestive system of common disorders like constipation, cramps, bloating, acid reflux, and IBS. When you’re stressed, your brain stimulates the release of cortisol and adrenalin hormones into your bloodstream to activate the body into ‘fight or flight mode, contributing to a significant increase in your stress and anxiety levels. The fight or flight mode is concerned only about you surviving the present moment, thus halting or reducing other physiological processes, which cuts off a significant supply of oxygen, nourishment, hormones, and other materials to the digestive system. When this happens, it increases your likelihood of developing digestive problems like constipation, bloating, ulcers, diarrhea, food allergies, IBS, etc.

When you meditate, your brain halts the secretion of fight or flight hormones to the bearest minimum, lowering stress and anxiety levels and helping your body achieve a calm and relaxed state that restores all bodily functions, including your digestive system, back to normal. Hence, meditation has a profound positive impact on your digestive system by improving your gut health and conditioning your digestive system to function optimally.

If you’ve been experiencing common digestive disorders, now is the best time to get a meditation app and start practicing meditation exercises, including deep breathing Yoga techniques.

Relationship between your brain and digestive system

There is a 2-way communication between the brain and your digestive system, resulting in constant communication back and forth between your digestive system (consisting of the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, rectum, anus, and associated glands and organs) and the brain. This pathway formed between the brain and the digestive system is numerous, and it consists of millions of interconnected nerves (forming the second brain or ENS) connecting the brain to the digestive system.

Your digestive system houses ‘the second brain’ (this probably explains the origin of the term ‘gut feelings,’ commonly used in everyday communication and expression) known as The Enteric Nervous System (ENS). This consists of over 100 million nerve cells lining your entire gut in two layers, from the esophagus to your anus. These nerve cells (nerves/neurons) are of the same type found in your brain.

Your ‘second brain’ controls all activities of the digestive system, which include:

  •         Swallowing food
  •         Production of digestive enzymes
  •         Digestion of food into simpler forms
  •         Controlling blood flow to the digestive system
  •         Absorption of digested food into the bloodstream
  •         Removal of undigested food from the bowel (poop)

The enteric nervous system (second brain), communicates with the brain, hormones, and your immune system. Thus the exchange of ‘negative’ information between your digestive and immune systems can affect your digestive health, leading to the development of digestive disorders like diarrhea, constipation, stomach upset, bloating, heartburn, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), etc.

When you’re nervous, stressed, or anxious, your brain stimulates the production of stress hormones (adrenalin and cortisol) which find their way into your digestive system. This affects the good bacteria that live in your gut and reduces the production of antibodies, lowering your body’s immunity and resulting in hormonal imbalance and gut-related issues like constipation, diarrhea, nausea, excessive food craving, lack of appetite, etc.

How to improve your digestive health: making use of suggestions and practices from your meditation apps for improved gut health

Below are common suggestions from mindfulness and meditation experts on improving your gut health.

  • Relaxing after meals: relaxing after meals stimulates your stomach to produce gastric juice essential for the digestion of food and absorption of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients needed by the body for healthy growth and development.
  • Eating fiber-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grain meals promotes the growth of good bacteria (probiotics) and also eases bowel movement.
  • Regular exercise improves your digestive rate, reduces stress, and promotes physical and mental well-being.
  • Drinking 6-8 glasses of water daily to improve digestion and bowel movement
  • Seeking help from doctors and therapists who specializes in managing stress levels and digestive disorders.
  • Name your thoughts and feelings
  • Avoid alcohol and smoking

Summing up

Practicing mindfulness and meditation, along with necessary lifestyle changes, can significantly improve digestive disorders and help you reduce stress and anxiety levels.

Also, note that what you eat, how and when you eat, and the activities you engage in can contribute to your gut health and impact positively or negatively on your overall digestive health. Hence, it is important to incorporate mindfulness and meditation into your daily activities and lifestyle to help you build a healthy digestive system that can prevent common digestive disorders.

I doubt that mindfulness and meditation apps like Headspace or Balance can help you achieve your goal of a healthy digestive system.



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