I’ve been sharing a few posts about what it means to look after the health of the nervous system. This stuff is pretty fascinating to me because it is so important! Anyone interested in health and wellbeing knows what it means to look after body parts such as hearts, bowels, liver, kidneys, lungs, brain etc etc, but yet our entire anatomy and physiology is reliant on a healthy nervous system and it isn’t something we tend to think about that much.
When the body is in sympathetic dominance, it means that for whatever reason, there is some sort of perceived threat. As stated in a previous post, one symptom might be muscles that continually shorten and spasm, but one that plagues loads of people is bloating and IBS.
I had terrible stomach issues through my late teens and twenties – and this was a time when I was far more rigid and perfect with my chosen diet than I am now! That’s why I am absolutely convinced that even though diet of course plays a part, unless there are food allergies, stress is the major factor. This also includes hormonal stressors such as menopause.
Twenty years ago, my stomach blew up like a balloon after the shock of losing a friend to suicide. A whole year where I literally could not digest anything and felt extremely unwell. Certainly, I did not want to process that news!
And this is the point. Our digestive organs are surrounded by a system of nerves called the Enteric NS. – otherwise known as the “feeling brain”. (Note that in Chinese the word for brain and belly are exactly the same – “tantien”). In other words, our gut is not just about digesting food, it’s about how we process and digest our life experiences.
Tensing here, whether consciously (in order to look nice in our clothes) or unconsciously (due to a perceived threat or habit), leads to major problems that begin with organ squashing and breath restriction and follow with a chain reaction of responses that affect the health of the entire physical and physiological body – including our ability to heal from injuries and to ward off illness.
The reason for this is because if your body is busy responding to danger (whether that danger is real or imagined), your systems don’t operate properly. An analogy perhaps is if you were using something electrical that required a huge amount of voltage at home and your wiring couldn’t quite cope. You risk blowing a fuse so maybe you make sure only that one thing is plugged in. Similarly, when your body responds to stress, it deems that the most important thing is making sure you have all the necessary short-term requirements to get the hey out of there!
This is no time to digest food, to heal cuts or injuries and/or ward off potential pathogens. It is not the time for reproduction (whether cells or babies). The only thing that matters is that we escape. Glucose is dumped into our body for energy (which may lead over time to sticky platelets), less core circulation (blood is driven to the extremities), an elevated heart rate, higher blood pressure, excess cortisol and adrenaline.
To conclude, stress, whether real, imagined or induced (by constantly squeezing the tummy, over-breathing or by overdoing Ultra exercise challenge events) leads to symptomatic, chronic and (in many cases) serious health issues. 🙏😕 🕉