Too often the only attention we give to them is either lamenting their external shape or size (definitely not encouraged), or admiring them (encourage. Ironically, David Beckham’s new underwear campaign is on the telly as I type this… where was I?)
But if you know the joy on a baby’s face while blowing raspberries on her/his soft white tummy, or the blissful, nurturing sensation of an abdominal massage, you’ll know the tummy area is an external sensory goldmine.
And if we go deeper, we find it’s also the seat of a massive internal nerve complex called the celiac (or solar) plexus. This nerve centre controls adrenal secretion, including the stress hormones, and intestinal function.
So when we’re stressed, our tummies are often the first point of impact. The solar plexus initiates the release of adrenalin, noradrenalin and cortisol from the adrenal glands and increases contractions within our gut. Our fight and flight system kicks in and blood flow to our digestive system decreases. This is why the food we eat when stressed can feel like a lead weight, making us feel sick and stodgy (or seeing us make a bee-line to the loo!)
Then thrown into the mix is serotonin, our feel-good hormone. Serotonin converts into melatonin, our sleep hormone. And with 95% of serotonin created in our gut, you can see how essential digestive health is in maintaining mood, lowering anxiety and ensuring regular, sound sleep.
Four Ways To Care For Your Digestive System
1. Wholefood Diet
- Micronutrients: B-vitamins: B3 and B6 ensure adequate serotonin levels are maintained and converted to melatonin. By eating a wide variety of whole foods including grass-fed, organic beef, chicken, turkey and fish (for the non-vegetarians), legumes, good fats such as those in avocados and nuts/seeds, leafy greens and colourful fruits and veggies, you’ll be boosting your B-vitamins as well as the amino acid tryptophan, vital for serotonin production.
- Macronutrients: Carbs, Proteins, Fats: While carbohydrates increase serotonin, too much starchy carb can put us into a food coma where we feel lethargic and lacking in energy. Balance your diet with lots of non-starchy carbs (think green and coloured vegetables), adequate protein and good quality starch-carb (such as sweet potato) to modulate hormones, mood and energy and ensure an efficient, happy tummy.
2. Digestive Herbs
Poor digestion can lead to anything from bloating, allergies, skin conditions, headaches, lethargy and autoimmune conditions. Some of my favourite gut-healing herbs include the soothing Ulmus rubra (Slippery Elm), astringents such as Phellodendron amurense (Phellodendron) and Hydrastis canadensis (Golden Seal) or bitters to stimulate digestion such as Gentiana luteum (Gentian). Include fresh ginger when nauseous or Peppermint and Fennel tea as tummy-tamers post-meals.
3. Helping Heartburn
Acid reflux can be triggered by caffeine, alcohol and fast-foods or eating too quickly without chewing properly. You can learn a whole lot more about reflux here, but two of the best ways to keep it at bay are:
- Sitting down to eat: Eating slowly, mindfully and in a state of relaxation helps blood flow to your digestive organs;
- Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) or lemon water: 1tbspn of ACV or ½ a squeezed lemon in warm water is a beautiful way to activate your digestion first thing in the morning. It helps tonify and stimulate the liver to produce bile and emulsify fats and primes your digestive system to promote optimal stomach acid for protein digestion.
4. Energetic Aids
- Homeopathic Gelsemium (Gels) can be great for a nervous tummy if you’re worried about your next big speech or presentation, whereas Argentum Nitricum (Arg-Nit) may be useful for panic, nausea or fear over a potential outcome.
- Flower essences are brilliant at bringing instant calm from anxiety or shock. Keep a bottle of Rescue Remedy (Bach Flower) or Emergency Essence (Australian Bush Flower) in your bag. You’ll be amazed how useful it is!
- Energetic oils add another dimension to healing. My favourite for the tummy area is Sacred Self’s Abundance Oil. By anointing your belly with this delicious golden essence, you are energetically strengthening the solar plexus area, releasing nervous tension and welcoming the flow of abundance on all levels.
*Originally guest-posted on http://michellemariemcgrath.com July 2014
Kate is a qualified naturopath who is passionate about helping women heal from hormonal havoc and inspiring women to know their own power, worth and wisdom.
Kate offers one-on-one Skype consults for irregular cycles, PMS and period pain, endometriosis, PCOS, peri-menopause, mood swings, fatigue and mental and emotional stress.
Simply drop me an email to see how I can help you!