Walk down the supplement aisle of any convenience or grocery store and you’re likely to find hundreds of supplements and medications promoting “improved gut health.”
Tums “banish bloating” and heart burn. Milk of Magnesia “settles your stomach.” Fiber softens stools. And Miralax “helps you go.”
Even non-medication supplements boast promising (natural) results:
- Betaine HCL “boosts low stomach acid.”
- Digestive enzymes promote “full digestion.”
- And probiotics “boost good gut bacteria.”
With all these claims and options, it’s easy to think that a magic pill can solve all your digestive woes.
However, before you dish out your cash to pills and supplements that may or may not be effective, there is one “magic pill” rarely promoted in “TUM, TUM, TUM, TUM, TUM” commercials or blog articles on the benefits of probiotics:
Your mind muscle…
THE POWER OF THE MIND
The mind is a force to be reckoned with.
For example: Sports statistics report that “sports are 90 percent mental and 10 percent physical.”
Many athletes have used the technique of “mental imagery,” or visualization, to up their game and perform at their peak. Others (including: Kobe Bryant, Tiger Woods, LeBron James and Olympic gold medal-winning volleyball players Misty May-Trainor and Kerry Walsh) use meditation to enhance their performance.
In medicine and research, the “placebo” effect is the real deal.
One study (Pecina et al, 2015) of 35 patients with “major depression” found that patients experienced “significant decreases” in depression symptoms when they took the placebo anti-depressents, compared to when they took the actual drugs themselves. Researchers concluded that outcomes reductions were linked to increased receptors in regions of the brain associated with emotion and stress regulation.
Another study of two groups of IBS sufferers also discovered the placebo to be stronger-even when both groups received no real drugs at all.
In the study, half of group received NO treatment. The other half of patients were actually told they’d be taking fake drugs (delivered in bottles labeled “placebo pills”), but also told that placebos often have “healing effects.”
The study’s results shocked even the investigators themselves: even patients who knew they were taking placebos described real improvement, reporting TWICE as much symptom relief as the no-treatment group (Kaptchuk, 2010).
YOUR BRAIN ON PLACEBO
Contrary to popular belief, people don’t just imagine placebo responses.
Brain-imaging studies show that placebos cause measurable changes in neurobiological signaling pathways (Marchant, 2016).
Say you are experiencing back pain and spontaneously decide to eat a Gummy Vitamin.
Chances are you won’t feel better.
However, if you describe your symptoms to a doc or physical therapist, who then prescribes you the same Gummy Vitamin (unbeknownst to you, it’s pretty much just sugar), you believe that pill will have a healing benefit.
This belief then activates reward pathways in your brain, then stimulating the release of more endorphins-chemicals that make you “feel better” because you feel at ease.
Like sugar or morphine (pain killer), these endorphins bind to opioid receptors in your brain and cause pain relief-all because you BELIEVED that Gummy Vitamin would work.
In other words:
The “placebo effect” is not necessarily the placebo or “fake therapy” itself, but also the beliefs and hopes patients have for their outcomes surrounding that therapy.
Enter: Constipation and bloating distress relief: The mind.
THE BRAIN GUT CONNECTION
It’s no secret that the brain influences the gut.
From butterflies in your stomach when you get anxious about public speaking.
Nausea at sight of blood.
Or…constipation or bloating when you’re super stressed or anxious…
The “brain-gut” connection is real.
Anatomically speaking, your brain is connected to your gut, and your gut to your brain, via the vagus nerve (a nerve that sits on top of your stomach and runs straight up to your brain).
What we can learn from these facts?
Your mind is the most powerful drug in the elimination of “gut issues.”
Hello stress reduction.
YOUR mind is a powerful force to be reckoned with.
Here are 5 tips for improving your digestion and flexing your mind muscle (before turning to supplements):
1. Mindful Eating. Before digging in without thinking at your next meal. Stop. Pause. Breathe. Take 1-2 minutes to give thanks for your food. Smell your food. Put your napkin in your lap. Set intention. Just be.
2. Social Media & E-mail Detox. It’s stressing you out more than you think. If you are like 8 in 10 Americans, you are checking it within the first 15 minutes of waking, and from there, all bets are off: Letting the day happen to YOU, instead of YOU happening to the day. Before you get swept away by the fires and rapid responses required on email, or the comparison idols of social media, consider putting time limits or period around your email and social media checking (Such as establishing 1-2 times per day to check them- in a chunk of time; or vowing not to check it within the first 1-2 hours of waking so you can establish a morning routine instead, etc.)
3. Guided Imagery. Imagine yourself digesting your food well. Not experiencing bloating. Fully eliminating your poop. Whatever issue you’re having with digestion, imagine the opposite.
4. Power Breathing. Stop holding your breath throughout the day. Or getting flustered and anxious, breathing faster or intermittently. Set intention to breathe (particularly around that “time” you want to go do the doo, or post-meal when you tend to experience more bloating). Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth for slow 5-10 second inhales and exhales.
5. Stop Telling Yourself “Always” and “Never.” “I am always constipated.” Or “I’m never going to feel better with all this bloating.” We are the stories we tell ourselves. Live a new story.
Want more gut healing tips?
Download my FREE 7-Day Gut Healing Cleanse to improve your gut from the inside out (no crazy juice fasts included).