Your digestion is one of the most emotional systems in your body. Think about it; you can have a gut wrenching experience, a visceral reaction, a nervous stomach or a gut feeling. You know intuitively that your gut is closely tied to your emotions.
Scientists are finding just how closely your brain and your digestion are connected through something called the gut-brain axis. They explain that neurotransmitters that play a role in regulating your mood, such as serotonin, dopamine and GABA, are made in your gut. In addition your digestive system is host to its own little world—called your gut microbiome. It consists of bacteria, yeast, fungi and other organisms that help you digest your food, protect you from harmful pathogens and support your immune system.
While your gut microbiome is necessary for good health, when harmful bugs outnumber the good ones, it can become out of balance, a condition called dysbiosis. Researchers have discovered that gut dysbiosis can lead to inflammation of your gut and can lead to emotional health issues, such as depression and anxiety. Based on these findings, scientists and doctors suggest that focusing on gut health may provide a pathway to treating mental health conditions.
The gut-brain axis works in the other direction, too. It’s no secret that stress, anxiety and depression can cause digestive problems. Issues such as heartburn, upset stomach, appetite loss, food cravings and irritable bowel are often caused by worry, stress, depression and emotional upsets. While your diet plays a huge role in the health of your digestive system, your emotional makeup also has a great deal of impact.
If you’re struggling with your mental health or have digestive issues, there’s good news. At BodaHealth, we’ve got you covered! We have practitioners with a wide variety of expertise and therapeutic solutions to help you. We begin with a complete evaluation of your current health status, your health history and your symptoms. Based on our findings, we will suggest one or more of the following:
- Acupuncture, as a way to relieve stress, regulate your mood and address your digestive symptoms. Acupuncture has long been known as a treatment for pain, however, it’s also incredibly effective in treating emotional health conditions, such as stress, anxiety and depression.
- Your acupuncture practitioner may also combine Chinese herbal therapy as a way to support your digestion and address any digestive symptoms you may be having. There are a number of herbs that can be used to relieve symptoms, such as nausea, diarrhea, constipation, heartburn, irritable bowel and appetite issues. Chinese medicine is a great way to amplify the effects of your acupuncture treatments and to further address the underlying cause of your symptoms.
- In addition to evaluating your dietary intake, our naturopathic physicians can conduct further assessments in the form of lab tests. They can assess the health of your gut and uncover any nutritional deficiencies or food sensitivities you may have. They can also detect the presence of bacterial overgrowth in your small intestine, a condition called SIBO or small intestine bacterial overgrowth. When necessary, your naturopathic physician can recommend pre and probiotics to help balance your gut microbiome, as well as prescribe vitamin, mineral or other supplements that you may need. They are also able to write prescriptions for medications when necessary.
- Our acupuncture practitioners, naturopaths and holistic nutritionists at BodaHealth are trained and experienced in dietary therapy. Whether you’re experiencing digestive problems or mental health issues, what you eat can make or break your health. Our team can look at what you’re currently eating and make suggestions for change, when appropriate. They can suggest foods that support your digestion to add to your diet, those to avoid, and they can help you with recipes and menus—all in order to optimize the health of your gut, and ultimately your mental health.
- When it comes to providing emotional health support, we also recommend massage therapy. A series of massage sessions can help reduce stress, promote feelings of calm and release muscle tension—all as a way to support both your emotional and physical health.
The bottom line is that your mental health and the health of your digestive system are closely linked. Regardless of where it begins, a problem with one can set off a cascade that upsets the other. At BodaHealth, we understand these connections and are committed to treating your whole body, not just your symptoms. If you’d like to know more about how we can help you with mental health issues, digestive problems or any other health conditions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
Dr. Jeda Boughton is a Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Registered Acupuncturist in Vancouver. She is also a Registered Herbologist and the founder of BodaHealth.