Constipation, Pain, & the Brain

Erin Foushee, NTP

JANUARY 31, 2019


Have you tried it all to unclog your pipes?

After a regime of clean eating and ingesting probiotics (both steps are important!), clients often knock on my door desperate to decode their derailed digestion. Luckily, I have a simple (free!) solution for you. It helps alleviate the root cause of digestive discomfort.

Here’s how this simple bio-hack works.

Take It From the Top

Digestion is a north-to-south process. If the more northern parts of the digestive system are malfunctioning, it will negatively impact all digestive organs south of that particular organ.

Get to the Root

Where does digestion begin?

Did you guess the mouth? Close but no cigar.

Digestion begins in the brain.

Imagine a lavish holiday meal is spread before you. The aroma of food fills the air. Before you even put a morsel into your mouth, you see and smell the food. This triggers the brain to cause your mouth to “water” with salivary amylase (a.k.a. spit). Simultaneously, your stomach is signaled to release digestive juices in preparation for the food.

Rest to Digest

In order for these important triggers to occur, YOU MUST BE RELAXED WHILE YOU EAT. When your body and mind are at rest, you are better able to digest food.

Conversely, if your body or mind is stressed in any way, the brain registers that there is some external source of stress that must be dealt with immediately. Digestion is put on the back burner.

Stress and Your Gut

Traditionally, overcoming exterior threats to an individual’s well-being called on the use of large muscle groups. For example, if your ancestor encountered an attacking saber-toothed tiger, his body would have sent blood away from the digestive organs and toward large muscles so he could more effectively fight or flee.

Our stress response still follows these primitive cause-and-effect patterns. Therefore, when there is a perceived stress, whether great or small, your body sends blood and attention away from the digestive system and toward the large muscle groups. In that moment of stress, your body prioritizes survival over digestion.

So what activities negatively impact the initial stage (and consequently all stages) of digestion? Here are just a few examples:

  • Eating in the car
  • Inhaling food while reading stressful e-mails at work
  • Multitasking during a meal
  • Munching down while watching negative news or viewing an action-packed show or movie that gets your adrenaline pumping
  • Eating while having a negative, emotionally charged conversation

How Does This Relieve Constipation?

When food is not broken down properly in the mouth and stomach, the partially digested food essentially rots in the gut. Bad gut bacteria feasts off of partially digested food. The more they eat, the stronger and larger they grow. An overgrowth of bad bacteria leads to constipation and a host of other health problems. Don’t feed the belly beast!

The Connection to Back & Pelvic Pain

When bowel movements are not cycling through once or more per day, the gut fills up with waste and pressure builds. That pressure causes unnatural forces in the gut. This can lead to or increase pelvic floor problems and back pain because the clogged guts push the spine and pelvic floor into unhealthy positions.

For that reason, keeping your gut in tip-top shape is a key step in reducing structural and muscular pain.

Action Steps

Implement the following steps to help optimize your digestion, and in turn, decrease pain caused by gut imbalances.

  1. Take a deep breath before eating
  2. (Mentally) rest to digest
  3. Focus on your food – Enjoy each bite
  4. Eat with an attitude of gratitude
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