Feeling uneasy?
Bowel routine slightly off?
Experiencing digestive grumbling, "butterflies in your stomach," cramps, or heartburn?

Any of these common discomforts can be a sign of disturbance in your enteric nervous system (ENS). What? You've never heard of it? You're not alone. As important as this system is, it is often overlooked. Today I'd like to shed some much-needed light on what your ENS does.

The ENS is independently responsible for the movement of food throughout our digestive system. It produces the enzymes digestive organs need for the mechanical and chemical processing of food.

The catch: Your GI tract is sensitive to emotions, from anger, anxiety, sadness, joy, to stresses of any kind. Why? There is a constellation of receptor sites for emotion in your gut. These receptors communicate through the vagus nerve, a two-way superhighway connecting the gut and brain. This gut-level emotion detection system is so sensitive and powerful, you could even think of the ENS as a "second brain."

Think what this means in your everyday life. Your emotions may be dictating the health of your digestive system while at the same time your gut discomfort could be worsening your lack of focus, irritability, restlessness, and weight gain.

Be sure to check with your doctor first. With the help of a health professional, it's often possible to address at once the stress you are feeling and the digestive complaints it causes. These simple steps may be useful in improving the interaction of your emotions and your digestion.

Use food as medicine.
Eat smaller, more easily digestible meals, such as steamed vegetables and fish. Decrease intake of inflammatory foods including tomatoes, peppers, and onions.

Reduce stress.
Talking to a friend or professional, yoga, meditation, massage, and acupuncture are just a few methods to try. Not only is stress reduction a good idea in and of itself, but research strongly suggests that emotions and stress may have a role in such persistent conditions as heartburn (acid reflux), IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), and "sensitive stomachs."

Go herbal.
Natural herbal remedies that may assist in reduction of the stress caused by emotion include ashwagandha, rhodiola, and Siberian ginseng. Digestive stress in particular may respond to deglycerized licorice, L-glutamine, aloe vera leaf, slippery elm, and marshmallow root.

Bottom line? Emotion and digestion are profoundly linked through the ENS. How you think can determine how your digestive system works; lack of balance in your digestion can affect your responses and mood. Isn't it worth the effort to take care of your enteric nervous system?

The first step is simple: Take action to improve the relationship between your ENS and your feelings. Review the pointers above. Adopt at least one of them immediately. Your body just may reward you with calmer thinking and quieter, more comfortable digestion.

Author's Bio: 

Roberta Roberts Mittman, L.Ac., Dipl.Ac., M.S., is a nutritional and lifestyle consultant, holistic mindset mentor, and nationally board-certified acupuncturist. Using natural, drug-free techniques, Roberta opens the door to complete mind-body health. Roberta's goal is not only to relieve patients' illness and discomfort, but to help them set realistic goals for physical and mental preventative care and overall wellness. Roberta believes in empowering individuals to be their own best healers.