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The foundation of health is a healthy lifestyle. This includes a nutrient dense diet, regular exercise, adequate sleep, and stress management. Unfortunately, these basic things are not valued in our culture of fast, convenient grab and go meals, butt-in-chair work as many hours as possible, and the busier you are the more important you must be. The consequences of this is a complete discordance between what your body is screaming at you to do and how you actually live your life. The result: disease.One of the areas we see this clearly is in Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). The gut-brain axis, a complex communication network between the gastrointestinal system and the central nervous system, is a wonderful example of how intricately our bodies are connected, and how stress affects our physical bodies.While the exact cause of IBS remains elusive, recent research has shed light on the gut-brain axis’s role in its development. And because of this connection, we see that specific meditation and stress management techniques have emerged as valuable tools in the treatment of IBS.
Gut-brain axis
The gut-brain axis involves intricate interactions between the enteric nervous system (ENS), known as the “second brain” in the gut, and the central nervous system (CNS). These two systems are in constant communication with each other; the gut-brain axis is an information highway.
Alterations in the signals between these two systems leads to a hypersensitivity in the organs of the GI tract, resulting in increased sensations of pain, and gut microbiota disturbances leading to altered bowel function (constipation and/or diarrhea). These are the main hallmarks of the functional bowel disorder that we call IBS. Stress is a major disruptor of the gut-brain axis, contributing to the development of IBS and the exacerbation of symptoms.What is really cool is that there is ample research that, in the context of IBS, stress management, including meditation, have shown promise in treatment. Meditation is a mindfulness practice that encourages awareness of the present moment, promoting relaxation and reducing stress.
Meditation techniques, such as mindfulness meditation and guided imagery, help reduce stress levels by activating the body’s relaxation response. Stimulating the vagus nerve, the main information highway between the CNS and ENS, meditation counteracts the “fight-or-flight” response associated with stress, leading to a calming effect on the gut and potentially reducing IBS symptom severity.
Meditation has been shown to alter pain perception by influencing brain activity in areas responsible for pain processing. With IBS patients experiencing hypersensitivity within the organs, meditation offers a natural, non-drug approach to manage pain and discomfort.Studies have suggested that meditation practices can positively influence the gut-brain axis by promoting a healthy gut microbiota balance and modulating neurotransmitter production. These changes may help restore gut function and alleviate the altered bowel function so common in IBS. There are so many different forms of stress management techniques. Finding one that you like and will actually stick to is key.First and foremost, I think it is so important to evaluate the areas in your life that feel busy, overwhelming, and/or unsatisfying. While we all have tasks to complete that we don’t necessarily enjoy, we can try to clear out the extraneous and simplify.Ask for help from your partner, kids, friends, co-workers, family, neighbors, etc. We all need help and it is not a weakness to ask for it. Let’s reach out and strengthen our social connections and communities by helping each other more.Hire help if necessary and able.Busy is not good, after all. Rest is actually extremely therapeutic as well as necessary. It needs to be prioritized. This is one of the most important healthy lifestyle habits that promotes health and healing. When you are ready for more intentional stress management, relaxation techniques, such as progressive muscle relaxation and deep breathing exercises, can calm the body’s stress response and positively impact the gut-brain axis. These techniques are easily accessible and can be incorporated into daily life to help you manage your IBS symptoms effectively.By incorporating meditation practices to regulate the gut-brain axis, and adopting stress management techniques to cope with the emotional aspects of IBS, you will certainly enhance your overall well-being and quality of life. As research continues to advance, the integration of these practices into IBS treatment plans holds promise for providing more effective and comprehensive care for those affected by this chronic gastrointestinal disorder.

Call me today to schedule your appointment and allow me to assist you with managing your IBS symptoms!


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