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Do you ever notice how your stomach hurts when you’re stressed or anxious?
Stress can negatively affect that state of your microbiome due to the intimate connection between the gut and the nervous system. We want to keep stress at a minimum in order to digest our food well and support the live bacteria and fungi in the gut. To get a better understanding of how stress is related to the microbiome, be sure to check out our blog post on how stress impacts your gut health.
In addition to maintaining the use of your probiotic and prebiotic supplements, it’s important to check in on your lifestyle to see how it affects your health. Even when we eat healthy foods and take our supplements, we are doing ourselves a disservice if we don’t take care of ourselves mentally.
Not getting enough sleep, working too many hours, and allowing ourselves to get stressed out easily are detrimental to our overall health, but these bad habits are particularly harmful to the microbiome.
When we’re stressed, our digestive system shuts down so that we can put all of our energy into addressing the stressful situation. This was helpful for our ancestors in life-or-death scenarios, but in today’s society our bodies react in the same way to much less important, non-life threatening situations. As a result, our gut health is compromised by stressful lifestyles.
Minimizing stress in combination with probiotic and prebiotic supplements will result in a digestive system that runs smoothly. You will experience little to no bloating, your mind will become more focused and creative, and your body will be better able to absorb nutrients from your food.
When we’re relaxed, our parasympathetic nervous system is turned on, and the sympathetic nervous system is switched off. The parasympathetic nervous system results in a relaxed and calm state, while the sympathetic nervous system excites the body and makes it stressed. It also increases blood pressure, increases heart rate, causes the mouth to dry, suppresses digestion, and suppresses the immune system.
We can control which system is turned on through meditation and breathing techniques. Practicing breathing techniques tricks the mind into sudden relaxation, switching the parasympathetic state on and resulting in a healthier digestive system.
Here are several breathing techniques you can practice to calm your belly and restore your digestive system.
Deepening your exhale is the quickest way to switch the body into relaxation mode. Inhale for four counts, hold the inhale for two counts, and exhale for six counts.
If this is too difficult, simply inhale for two counts and exhale for four. Do this for as long as you’d like, but for at least five minutes.
This technique is a basic breathing meditation. Pick one of three points to put all of your focus on — either the breath coming in and out of your nostrils, your chest rising and falling, or your belly expanding and softening.
Focus on this one point for anywhere from 5-20 minutes. You can even say “inhale, exhale” inside your head if it helps you focus!
Counting your breaths is great for beginners or anyone who has trouble focusing. Combine practicing the zen breath technique by drawing all of your attention to one point while counting.
As you inhale count “one” and as you exhale count “two”. Work your way up until you get distracted, and then start back over at one. Try this for 7-8 minutes and work your way up to 10-20 minutes.
Lie down for this exercise. Extend your arms at your side, palms facing upward. Let your breath be easy and effortless and try to relax your entire body.
Begin at your toes and work your way up to the top of your head, scanning the body for any pain or tension. Wherever you feel pain or tension, take a deep in and exhale out the mouth. Repeat several times before moving to the next area.
The chakras are energy centers in the body. When they’re imbalanced you will feel blockages as you sit upright and breath full, deep breaths.
For this technique, sit upright, shoulders directly over hips. Take a deep breath in through the nose, all the way to the root of the spine and exhale out the nose, out the crown of the head. Repeat, but this time exhale out the mouth to relieve any tension.
On your next inhale through the nose, send the breath to the point just above the navel. Exhale through the nose, then out the crown of the head. Inhale again, and exhale out the mouth to relieve any tension.
This chakra is the solar plexus, which is linked to digestion. Take a deep inhale and send the breath to your heart and exhale out the crown of the head. Inhale again and exhale out the mouth to relieve any tension.
On your next inhale, send the breath to your throat. Exhale out the crown of the head. Inhale again and exhale out the mouth to release any blockages. Inhale to your third eye — the point between your eyebrows.
Exhale out the crown of the head. Inhale again, and exhale out the mouth to relieve any tension. Finally, inhale to the crown of the head and exhale out the crown of the head. Inhale, and then exhale out the mouth, releasing any remaining tension.
Practicing these techniques will help you relieve stress and calm your belly.
In addition to practicing breathing meditation, it is important to continue to take probiotic and prebiotic supplements (we recommend BIOHM) for total gut balance, as well as to fuel your body with gut-friendly food.
– Kate Wilke
Editor’s note: This post has been updated for relevancy. Its first publish date was October 14, 2018.