14 July 2017
Learning to Massage the Brain
Zoe had always suffered from painful stomach cramps, even as a small child. She would wake up with tummy pain before school or in the days leading up to exams or sometimes even something she was looking forward to like a birthday party or sleepover with friends. Her mother called it ‘worry ache’. Her GP did all the usual tests and told the family that Zoe would ‘grow out of it’. She didn’t. As a teenager, Zoe was diagnosed with IBS. She was told that her gut was ‘sensitive’ to certain foods, stress, lack of exercise or fibre – and that this was a lifelong, untreatable condition that she should learn to accept.
What Zoe was experiencing was the effect of emotion and stress on her ‘gut brain’: that extraordinary and complex system of more than 100 million nerves in our gut that communicates directly with our cranial brain.
There are many physical causes of gastrointestinal disorders and it is important to investigate the ‘alarm’ symptoms such as fever, weight loss or passing blood. Only then can we can look at the link between our states of mind and gut pain, bloating, reflux, cramps and other symptoms coming from our second brain. Studies suggest that poor digestive function and gut dysbiosis can even affect our memory, thinking skills and lead to early Parkinson’s Disease.
Ninety percent of our serotonin, the neurotransmitter so important to feelings of well-being, is created in the gut. Conditions like IBS, leaky gut, cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis have all been linked to a lack of peripheral serotonin from the digestive tract. Equally well-researched are the beneficial effects of therapies like CBT, relaxation techniques and taking low doses of antidepressants on sufferers. They all help by relieving pain and stress and can even rebalance gut bacteria.
Abdominal Massage is a holistic technique that offers a variety of benefits, from easing pain and muscle tension to boosting immune function and giving an overall sense of wellness. Improving the flow of blood and fluids to the uterus, pancreas, the gut and the prostate for example, helps to nourish and reposition the vital organs.
Since understanding the connection between her gut brain and her cranial brain, Zoe has been using mindfulness and relaxation techniques together with Abdominal Massage to improve her enteric nervous system and rebalance her gut bacteria. She is almost symptom free these days and feels in control of her body – and her brain.
Tags: IBS, gut health, abdominal massage, holistic therapy, wellness, wellbeing