When it comes to health, there are some things that you have no control over, such as genetics. But some things you can control, and studies show the bacteria that live in your gut may be controllable. Trillions of good and bad microbes live in your gut, moving in shortly after birth. New studies show that you may be able to increase the amount of good bacteria in your gut through the mind-gut connection, including meditation.
Lower amounts of stress hormones seem to have a positive impact on the bacteria of your gut, so you should find ways to de-stress. Exercising and practicing meditation have been linked to lower stress hormones, which in turn have been linked to healthier guts. The digestive system has a close connection to feelings of stress and nervousness (“butterflies in the stomach”), so it also benefits from mindful activities, such as meditation. A calm mind also relaxes the body, allowing the body to better digest food and preventing upset stomach and inflammation. A recent study shows that meditation and other stress reduction techniques can help control the symptoms of IBS.
It has been known for decades that relaxation techniques help alleviate stress symptoms, but the recent study is the first to show how less stress can be beneficial to gut health. Participants in the study engaged in at-home relaxation techniques, including meditation for 15-20 minutes a day and reported a reduction in disease related symptoms. The study was small and more information is needed, but it shows promise for those who experience gastrointestinal inflammation that causes digestive issues.
Deep breathing is often a focus of meditation. By breathing deep during meditative exercises, oxygen is sent to the digestive system to aid in digestion. This means that you not only experience feelings of relief while meditating, but also harness the same effects for hours afterwards, which can help with chronic gut problems.
Stress eating is circular. If you feel stressed, you tend to eat sugary or high fat foods that are difficult to digest and make you crave more of them. This can lead to discomfort in your gut, ranging from gas and bloating to heartburn. Meditation can help calm the impulse to eat foods that can aggravate digestive.
Finding a meditation technique that works for you can help calm stress hormones that lead to leaky gut and poor digestion. For some people a deep breath is all it takes. Others may need to find a quiet spot to spend some time clearing their minds. Over time, as you reduce stress, you will also notice a reduction in symptoms of poor gut health.