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Brain and Gut Convo

Brain and Gut Communication

Reconnect to Your Body and Brain

by Tanya Kindel, PsyD

brain and gut conversationHow are you communicating with your Body?

Our Body is a multicellular organism. It is made of cells working in systems with one intent: survival. The cells do not have any malicious or immoral intent. So why do we hate and disconnect from our bodies? Or think our body hates us?

There are many reasons we may disconnect from our body. Trauma, illness, or disease at a young age can trigger us to disconnect from experiencing emotional or physical pain. Therefore making the survival process more bearable during that time. Our body then learns to disconnect or dissociate with any experience or thought of real or perceived uncomfortableness.

Sensory information and messages absorbed from our environment about our body (i.e. you are a chubby kid) can lead to perceptions that there is something wrong with our body’s appearance. We associate a negative functioning that could have us rejected or isolated from our only known safe system.

All of this information gets held in the subconscious and basically runs your entire body automatically.

The Brain and Gut Talk

One of those systems running automatically, or outside of our conscious awareness, is the Gut-Brain Axis (GBA). The Brain and Gut talk. A lot. More than a gossip filled high school cafeteria.

The conversations are an attempt to figure out what is going on and respond quickly (learned memory) to keep you safe and alive. Through different pathways in your nervous system, one being the Vagus Nerve, they send signals back and forth. Your awareness, attention and response to those signals have a major impact on your health.

Gut to Brain: Some nerves in the Gut report what is happening within the Gut (digestive problems, harmful over growth, inflammation, viruses, and much more). Some nerves influence the motor functions of the GI system. Information from the gut is vital for knowing things when we are hungry or when we have eaten enough. Yet, the information also drives activity that is involved in emotions, memory, stress and coping behaviors.

The key understanding is that when things go wrong in the Gut, it has no way to tell the Brain precisely what is wrong. It sends an alarm signal to the brain “something is off” which can often trigger physiological symptoms most commonly related to anxiety (attention to threat). The brain only has MEMORY and PERCEPTION to process these signals.

The Brain and Gut Conversation

So, for example. If you have an overgrowth of unfriendly bacteria resulting in digestive problems and bloating your gut will signal:

Gut: ALERT! Attention! ALERT!

Your brain will process signal this how it has learned to process it in the past which can be through distorted beliefs.

Perceptual Brain: “UGH. Not again. I am so fat. I can’t eat anything fun. My body sucks.” Activating feelings of sadness, frustration, guilt and other uncomfortable emotions within the subcortical brain region.

Brain to Gut: While the Brain will process the bloating through distorted beliefs, the Gut does not have its own ability to perceive what is happening outside the body. It only has our perception and guidance to act on as truth and adjust our body chemistry accordingly. The eyes may be the window to our soul, but our perception is the window to our Gut. So when our Brain sends the “THREAT is real” signal back to the Gut that along with the feelings of painful emotions it activates the stress response. The impact of the stress response on the body has been well documented and we know that chronic stress can lead to many mental and physical health issues.

The result is that Gut never gets the nurturing attention it needs. So it will continue to send alert signals. The Brain is set on perceiving the body and world as a negative and harmful system so it will continue to process the signals as a threat.

Body Communicating Questions

  • Is your language negative, angry, fearful, desperate, full of disgust or defiance?
  • Does your language remind you of how a caregiver used to talk to you as a child?
  • Do you get upset with yourself when you make choices you know are not “healthy”, but feel that your body’s learned ways of responding to signals that feel out of your control?

The answer is not just positive body talk, but opening up pathways for all systems to be heard, nurtured and grounded in the present.

Brian and Gut Treatment includes:

  1. Collaborate with a Nutritionist to uncover what your body may be trying to tell you through bloating and inflammation, how your body may be reacting to certain foods, how to nurture the body with the right nutrients and supplements it may be missing, and how to plan and structure your daily routine with food.
  2. Collaborate with your Doctor to get regular blood work, bring attention to patterns of physical pain, discuss alternative treatments such as chiropractic care or physical therapy, plan a gentle movement or low impact exercise plan that does not stress out your body.
  3. Collaborate with a Therapist on Body Mindfulness. Learn to notice, listen and become curious about what may be happening in your body without judgement, impulsive action, labels or negative language responses. Reframe your perception and practice seeing your cellular body as a system that needs attention, nurturance and care order for health and growth. Seek to uncover any unresolved learned processes (i.e. disconnecting when uncomfortable) that may be on an unconscious loop from the past and impacting behaviors in the present.

To learn more or to be seen by Dr. Kindel, please contact us at 724.934.3905 or complete our quick and easy form!