My long time colleague and friend, Adrian Blake is a specialist in the area of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). When all else failed with specialists and Consultants at local hospitals and clinics here in South London & Kent, clients were referred to Adrian for treatment. Using psychotherapy and a hypnosis approach that has an 85% success rate Adrian is considered an expert in the successful treatment of IBS. I asked him to write for thestresshacker this week and tell us a little bit about the mind/body connection and the debilitating illness of IBS. Enjoy!
Happiness could well be stomach shaped. Many Eastern approaches to medicine and healing would see the stomach (the gut) as the seat of our emotions. A surprising discovery in recent years that tends to reinforce this belief – and which has raised some fascinating questions – is to do with the vagus nerve.
Now the vagus nerve runs from the brain down to the gut. It’s a major highway, and a very busy one indeed. It carries heavy traffic.
Up until recently it was assumed that most of this traffic was one-way, from the brain to the gut, the brain conveying instructions to the gut on all matters to do with digestion.
But not so it seems. Professor Michael Gershon’s pioneering work at New York’s Columbia University has pretty firmly established the opposite: that far more traffic flows from the gut to the brain than vice versa.
The big question is what are all these messages from the gut conveying to the brain? Well, there are lots of don’t knows to questions about the human digestive system. This is because we are talking about a universe of mind numbing complexity. For example, the bacterial population of the large intestine (the colon) numbers more than 100 trillion, made up of at least 500 different species. To put this into perspective, the population of the world is reckoned to be about 7.4 billion. This means there are about 13.5 times more bacteria in your large intestine than there are people in the world.
What we know is that 90-95% of our serotonin
which dictates our mood, lies in the gut and only a small amount in the brain. So all that huge traffic of messages to the brain may be largely to do with conveying, literally, gut feelings. In other words, it may be the gut, not the brain, is telling us how we feel. Eastern medicine may have got it right all along, that emotions really do originate in the gut.
To understand the gut’s wisdom we have to listen to it.
Unlike the brain, which conveniently thinks in words, the gut is more to do with us ‘sensing our sensations’, it means us tuning into those gut feelings. In my 31 years of practice as a psychotherapist and hypnotherapist I know that accessing our gut feelings can be liberating. It frees us of unresolved issues ‘stuck’ in the gut where they reside very uncomfortably – see www.ibsgetwell.co.uk
In the area of our emotions it seems our gut is the senior partner. A knot in the stomach, butterflies in the stomach, your gut reaction to something?
Yes, listening to your gut more than your brain may be a true education.