We are all familiar with the adage, “your thoughts become your reality,” and with the notion that our thoughts can actually affect how we feel emotionally. But did you know that your thoughts can have a positive or detrimental effect on your digestive health? In fact, digestion actually starts with your thoughts, not your mouth. Just thinking about eating a delicious food stimulates salivation, one of the first steps in digestion. In turn, thinking negative or toxic thoughts releases a cascade of chemicals that negatively affect digestion. When you are angry or anxious, your brain communicates these chemical messages to the rest of your body, primarily through the vagus nerve.
The vagus nerve is the largest nerve in your body and it connects your brain and your gut. Your brain communicates with your gut and your gut also communicates with your brain. Neurogastroenterology is the science of the gut-brain connection. Neurogastroenterologists discovered that the digestive organs have their own nervous system, the Enteric Nervous System (ENS).
When we are in a continual cycle of negative thinking, our body is in a state of fight or flight and the ENS is subsequently affected. This state is characterized by a flood of stress chemicals such as adrenaline and cortisol that signal the ENS to shut down health-giving operations. These chemicals, if left soaring through our body over long periods of time, can potentially cause serious damage to our digestive health. In fact, one episode of anxious or negative thinking, can impede proper digestion that lasts for almost 3 days! The stress caused by chronic, toxic thoughts has been linked to numerous digestive disorders such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and even small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) and leaky gut syndrome. YIKES!
The good news is that you CAN change the way you think and thus improve your digestive health. In fact, through the process of neuroplasticity and neurogenesis, you can actually create new neurons and neural pathways that are linked to happiness, thus leading to better digestion. It’s as simple as creating a new “happy habit.” Try this: purposefully notice your thoughts. When a negative one enters your awareness label it without judgement. “That’s an anxious thought. I’ve been having those a lot lately.”
Then, immediately make the decision to release it. You can even say something like, “Thinking like that doesn’t serve me or my health. I choose to release that thought.” Finally, purposefully replace the negative thought with a positive one of wellbeing such as, “I am abundant in all areas of my life. I choose gratitude!” Then, watch your digestive ailments float away. So, the next time you open your mouth to take a bite of something healthy and delicious, take a moment to pause and choose gratitude…then salivate away!