Four Unusual Factors Associated with Gut Health & Digestion – Exercise, Self-Massage, Breathing, and Meditation
Digestive issues and gut health are topics that not everyone considers or even thinks about. And I often get asked about he role of this in a blog about plant-based eating? But we all have had issues with digestive problems and sluggish systems – vegan and omnivores alike. . There are four unusual factors that contribute to better gut health as outlined below- exercise, self-massage, meditation and deep breathing. Taking the time to incorporate these four components into your everyday activities will greatly increase your digestive health and help you become a less stressed, happier individual.
Exercise and Digestive Issues
You may think that exercise is all just physical changes that you can see, but it is way more than how many calories you have burned or muscles you have sculpted. The right exercise will affect not only your entire body, but also your gut. A professional athlete will have a more diverse microbiome than their counterparts who are not exercising, in terms of age and weight.
When you move your body, you stimulate the lymphatic system, which is the system that assists your body in removing toxins and keeps your circulation healthy. Massage and dry brushing are two other ways the lymphatic system is stimulated, but exercising is very effective. Other benefits of exercising include cardiovascular health and a boost in spirits.
When you exercise, you help gut flora as the exercise modulates it and increases diversity. Exercise increases your oxygen levels and can detoxify your body, leading to more energy. The mood-boosting effect of exercise meets up with healthy microbiome and we realize with amazement that we can take back the power with the right food and exercise.
It is perfectly understandable to want to skip the gym or a hard workout when you are having digestive issues. That’s OK! You really only need to take a quick swim or short walk to make your heart pump and your blood flow. When you participate in an exercise that makes you happy, your gut will thank you!
Abdominal Massage Supports Good Digestion
Massage has many wonderful benefits. It improves circulation, calms the nervous system and removes unwanted toxins from the body. There is an ancient Mayan massage that targets the abdomen specifically, and many other cultures use abdominal massage for healing purposes as well.
While an abdominal massage offers many of the same benefits of a regular one, there are added benefits for the digestive system. If I have an upset stomach, constipation, gas or cramps, I use this technique to help the pain subside and to get things moving along the way they should. It is very easy to follow.
- Lay down somewhere quiet and comfortable
- Move in clockwise circles
- Apply gentle pressure
- Go slow
- An abdominal massage should not be painful
- Lavender oil diluted in a small amount of carrier oil or peppermint is also extra effective (and smells good!)
- Use your hands to make circular motions that go up close to your ribs and then down to your pelvic bone
- Two minutes is usually the time it takes to feel positive results from an abdominal massage
This type of massage will ensure your lower intestine enjoys a full blood supply. It also stimulates detoxification and movement. You’ll notice that you will have less bloating and it will release excess gas.
When used at night, this massage technique helps to relax the vagus nerve and reduces stress. Stress can quickly cause serious digestive health and this is a sure-fire way to decrease it. It is also important in promoting long-term gastrointestinal health and address digestive issues.
Mediation and Gut Health
Most people do not consider meditation when they are looking for getter digestion and gut health. But stress does have a major influence on the health of our gut and meditation is a stress reliever, so combining the two works wonders.
We live in a stressful world. A high-stress lifestyle will cause issues with your gut that can be painful. When you feel rushed or anxious, your body will instinctively go into flight or fight mode as a survival mechanism. When we were living just to survive, it was useful to have the fight or flight instinct, but today it isn’t as big of an issue. We aren’t normally running for our lives or fighting off large predators. But when this response kicks in our stress response is triggered, causing digestive issues.
A body that is in the fight or flight mode will no longer be able to direct energy towards proper digestion. When we eat while we are working, hurried, stressed or worried, the food sits in our gut until our body is calm enough to start the digestion process. However, we can’t eliminate every stressful situation and we still have to eat, which is when things can get tricky. Meditation is the key for when you want to enjoy a healthy digestive system, more energy, a calm nervous system and even clearer skin.
As you gradually learn how to practice meditation, you will be able to decrease your stress levels and lower the flight or fight response that you have lived with for so long. The gut and the nervous system are inseparably linked. We are not designed to be stressed at all times, and when we learn how to calm our nervous system down, our health improves greatly.
After you get used to releasing all negative thoughts and turning into your breath, you will begin to see how much more energy you will have to burn during the day. Your digestion will improve and you will feel better as a whole.
How to Easily Use Meditation in your Life
- Every day, find a quiet and comfortable place where you will not be disturbed to focus on your breathing for five to 10 minutes.
- Set this time aside every day to just sit and breath. Allow any intrusive thoughts to fade away-do not dwell on them.
Deep Breathing and Gut Health
Deep breathing also has a wonderful effect on the digestive tract. You’ve probably heard this said at yoga class, at the doctor’s office, and in magazine articles. When you take slow, deep breaths you activate the parasympathetic nervous system. This helps your body to regenerate, recuperate and heal. Deep breathing is also called diaphragmatic, abdominal or natural breathing.
To deep breathe, focus on pulling the air in down to your diaphragm and not just into your chest. Deep breathing triggers relaxation and causes your blood capillaries to expand, therefore allowing even more oxygen to get to where it needs to go, including your gut.
As you can see, there are many facts that go into gut health and digestion. When you incorporate the ones we have discussed into your life, your gut and your body will thank you for it!
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