Relaxing Into Our Body’s Intelligence
Maybe the biggest issue with eating too much food, too many unhealthy foods or not eating enough is that the consequences affect our entire being: our physical, mental, and emotional self.
We know the importance of our central nervous system (CNS) for relaying information to the rest of our body. However, many of us do not realize we also have an enteric nervous system (ENS) that sends vital information to the body from our gastrointestinal tract (GI tract).
Both our CNS and the ENS develop from the same fetal tissue. The two systems are connected by the vagus nerve. The vagus is our tenth cranial nerve, stretching down the brain stem to the abdomen. It is the main highway that gut bacteria uses to relay information to the brain.
Our Brainy Gut
Though it seems as if our cranial brain is in charge of mostly everything, scientists discovered our gastrointestinal tract sends more data to our brain than the brain transmits to the GI tract. So, mental anxiety may stir up the butterflies in our stomach but dysfunction in our gut can also cause mental distress.
Separate research studies found evidence of our gut's intelligent communication capability:
- There is a “good” (probiotic) bacteria called Bifidobacterium longum NCC3001 that reduces anxiety behaviors in mice suffering from colitis.
- A probiotic called Lactobacillus rhamnosus influences the brain neurotransmitter GABA, leading to lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Reduced cortisol eases depression and anxiety related behaviors.
- The brain neurotransmitter serotonin is associated with mood management, and low serotonin levels have been linked to depression. The gut produces serotonin as well and our intestines have a larger population of serotonin than our brain does.
Our physical body hums with intelligent communication. Even the heart has its own system of neurons and neurotransmitters. Yet, we are often so concerned with appearances, we lose sight of how utterly fantastical the human body is.
The Body's Wisdom
Purging our body of just eaten food, starving the body, or exercising for hours every day does not just impact weight, clothing size or how we appear in the mirror. It influences every other system in our body. Thinking of the self holistically, as a being of interrelated parts may not help every person dealing with an eating disorder, but it has helped some of us alter our focus.
Our entire body is wired for intelligence and we can support that intelligence by focusing on eating more whole, unprocessed foods and less sugary items. It is possible to let go of how we are supposed to look and relax into the wisdom built into our body. The only way to tap that wisdom is to feed our self nutritious stuff, foods that give our body’s intelligence what it needs to thrive.
Photo credit: Lon Martin / flickr creative commons