The Colon – Brain Connection*Sep 30, 2020
Have you ever had a “gut-wrenching” experience? or have you ever felt “butterflies” in your stomach?
We use these expressions for a reason. The gastrointestinal tract is sensitive to emotion! Anger, Anxiety, Sadness, Resentment and Elation—all of these feelings (and others) can trigger symptoms in the colon. That is why I often find people come to visit our clinic when they are stressed or feeling down.
The brain has a direct effect on the stomach. For example, the very thought of eating or smell of food can release the stomach’s juices before food gets there. This connection goes both ways. A troubled intestine can send signals to the brain, just as a troubled brain can send signals to the colon. Therefore, a patient’s distressed colon can be as much the cause as the product of anxiety, stress, or depression. That’s because the brain and the gastrointestinal (GI) system are intimately connected — so intimately that they should be viewed as one system, rather than two.
This is especially true in cases where a person experiences gastrointestinal upset with no obvious physical cause. For such stomach disorders, trying to heal a distressed colon without considering the impact of stress and emotion is like trying to improve an employee’s poor job performance without considering his manager and work environment.
These observations suggest that at least some patients with functional GI conditions might find relief with therapy to reduce stress or treat anxiety or depression. A review of 13 studies showed that patients who tried psychologically based approaches had greater improvement in their symptoms compared with patients who received conventional medical treatment, visualisation and other stress relief methods, to edit.
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