Here we go again talking about the breath (you might be thinking, “doesn’t she get tired of talking about the breath?” “No, no she doesn’t” is the answer). This time, we’ll talk about the breath as it relates to gut health.
The Gut: Our Second Brain
For us humble mental health warriors, gut health is SUPER IMPORTANT! It’s in the gut (the enteric nervous system – ENS) that over 30 neurotransmitters are used. Over 90 percent of serotonin is produced there. As a reminder, serotonin is the neurotransmitter associated with good mood and depression. Needless to say, if your gut is out of balance, your mental/emotional health is quite likely at risk. The ENS also has more than 100 million nerve cells and can ‘talk’ directly to the brain through the vagus nerve in speeds 100 milliseconds faster than the blink of an eye! That’s freaking fast!!
Stress and Digestion
All of these neurotransmitters are both produced and used by our gut microbiome. In our ENS we have tons of bacteria, fungi, and viruses that need to remain in a delicate balance so that we can stay healthy and happy.
I know, I know, we’ve been taught that all those guys are baddies and cause us to get sick and all that but, that’s not the whole story. We need a well-balanced microbiome so we don’t get sick. All those little guys need to be in the right ratios to one another both in our guts and all over our bodies; there are, in fact, more of them than there are cells in our body!
Stress, though, that little bugger, causes havoc in our gut and causes it to become unbalanced. When we are stressed, stress hormones are released and, slows down digestion, amongst other digestive issues. Most of us are in a prolonged state of low-grade stress. That chronic stress affects the amount of blood and oxygen available to the gut; and, it can make the intestinal barrier weaker which allows enteric bacteria to enter the body. Needless to say, that’s not good.
Balancing the Gut With the Breath?
When we take the time to slow down and breathe deeply before eating, we allow our enteric system to be better prepared to digest what we’re about to eat. When we breathe deeply, we’re telling out bodies and minds that we’re safe and it’s OK to use energy to digest our food. This allows our microbiomes to better do their jobs and not become unbalanced.
Taking a little time to focus on deeply breathing throughout the day, we can support our guts by reducing the stress load on our bodies. That’s why taking, what I like to call, a Breath Break throughout the day is so important!
This is What I Like to Do:
I’m definitely one for “killing two (or three) birds with one stone” as often as I can. So, I love to practice pausing to take a deep belly breath before I say a prayer of gratitude and blessing before I eat.
This combines all of my favorite things into one super mood-enhancing and gut and faith-supporting practice in one:
- deep belly breathing, for relaxation;
- gratitude, for mood lifting; and
- prayer, for faith support.
How to Do It:
- Pause before eating, close your eyes and take a couple slow, even, deep breaths into your belly (this brings in oxygen and massages/expands your stomach/abdomen. It also grounds you and helps you connect with God in your prayer)
- Think of three things you’re grateful for and start your prayer with gratitude
- Thank God for your food and ask for His blessing on it. If you have it, take the time to connect even more with God at this time
- Enjoy your food by mindfully chewing and experiencing its texture, color, taste, etc. (mindfully eating also reduces stress and assists with digestion by allowing your mind to register signals that you’re full).
Do this before every meal (and even when you want feel closer to God) or any time of the day you feel like!
Enjoy your joyful life!
The Joyful Life Blueprint
P.S. Let’s get to know each other. Here’s my story, what’s yours?