Mastering Mindful Eating: Your Path to Long-Term Digestive HealthPublished on Wednesday, November 01, 2023 by
The Power of Mindful Eating in Managing Acid Reflux, GERD, and IBS
Have you connected with every external resource available to help soothe the symptoms of Acid Reflux, GERD, or IBS? The journey through these diseases can be brutal–feeling like you don’t know how to feed yourself, discouraged that you will never feel “normal” again, and trying allergy/sensitivity testing, medications, elimination diets, etc., in hopes of a “cure.”
While many of the above may work for a while, clients often return discouraged that symptoms have returned despite their best efforts. No one seems to be able to answer why that form of treatment stopped working or what triggered symptoms to flare-up. The state of the unknown can be challenging to rest in, causing clients to react by going outside of the moment, disconnecting from their bodies, and looking to external sources to find the solution.
The Kite and Your Body: Understanding the Power of Mindfulness
Instead, pause. Close your eyes and imagine flying a kite. After several attempts, it is finally gliding peacefully through the air. Suddenly, it begins to lose control, whipping from side to side and heading towards the ground.
This will continue to happen until its control center (YOU) senses and reads the changes in the air and reacts accordingly. The kite may crash a few more times, but if you connect with your surroundings, you will eventually learn to stay present, reading the environment and adjusting before the crash. This is how practicing mindfulness and Intuitive Eating helps restore digestive health over the long term.
Part of being alive is change, both internally and externally, and both affect the gut. Try adding the below to your symptom maintenance routine to learn to manage the wave of GI symptoms associated with acid reflux, GERD, and IBS.
Be Still: The Art of Mindful Connection
Be Still. Try incorporating moments of silence throughout your day where you connect to your body in the present moment. This can be as simple as finding a quiet space, closing your eyes, inhaling for 5 seconds, and exhaling for 10. Then, bringing awareness to external sensations, such as where your body makes contact with solid surfaces and how the air feels on your skin.
Finally, listen to five different sounds going on in or around you. Then, notice subtle or ignored messages your body may be trying to give you- how is your stress level, anxiety, hunger/fullness, etc? How do these things typically affect your GI symptoms, and how can you proactively reduce the impact?
Be Prepared: The Importance of Environmental Awareness
Be Prepared. Just as you would check the weather before flying a kite, it is also important to look at your upcoming day or week to check the environment. Is there a stressful meeting at work, are there bills due that put a strain on a relationship, any medical appointments or tests that usually bring anxiety, a holiday or event that takes you out of your comfort zone or routine and ultimately wreaks havoc on your GI system?
Allow time in your schedule for more self-care, such as making an appointment with a therapist to process, change up your exercise routine, get more sleep, etc. Knowing a trigger is coming and being prepared makes it easier to manage.
The Grateful Gut: The Brain-Gut Connection
Be thankful. Although we don’t fully understand how we know that the gut and brain are connected. Dr. Glenn J. Treisman, a noted figure at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, emphasizes that their research consistently underscores a bidirectional relationship. In their investigations, it becomes evident that the brain exerts an influence on the gut, the gut has an impact on the brain, the microbiome influences the gut, and this interplay continues, with the brain affecting the gut and, in turn, the microbiome.
While there is MUCH more to learn, many studies have shown that practicing gratitude regularly positively impacts the brain, possibly boosting serotonin and dopamine, among other benefits. Try incorporating gratitude into your daily life by journaling or sharing something you are grateful for before each meal. Eventually, gratitude will become a part of your daily life and hopefully be a positive tool in managing acid reflux, GERD, and IBS.
Embracing Mindfulness, Preparation, and Gratitude for Optimal GI Health
In conclusion, the art of mindful connection encourages moments of silence to connect with your body and environment, helping you better manage your GI symptoms. Being prepared by assessing and adjusting your schedule based on potential triggers allows for proactive self-care and stress management. Additionally, understanding the bidirectional relationship between the brain, gut, and microbiome emphasizes the importance of practicing gratitude as a tool to improve your overall well-being and better cope with conditions like acid reflux, GERD, and IBS.
- Powder, J. (2021). The Gut Microbiome and the Brain. Hopkins Bloomberg Public Health. https://magazine.jhsph.edu/2021/gut-microbiome-and-brain
Brooke OrrMS, RD