The Happy Mondays – Guts & Glory

Many years ago I was commissioned to write a piece for the inaugural Sleepers Almanac, in fact 2014 marks the ninth edition of this perennial favourite. Oh how time flies. The first edition was called the Nervous System and I was lucky enough to scribe one of my favourite pieces of clinical nutrition, heavily punctuated with Gowisms along the way. I wrote a story called That Ol’ Gut Feeling about the enteric nervous system and why we should listen to our gut. There’s a few excerpts further down the page.

Just recently I took that sound advice from self and listened to my gut. To be honest I didn’t really listen, I felt. I felt a mild dose of nausea, shaken with a jolly good dose of anxiety, and served up with a jambalaya of mutterings in my head. Every time I thought about the situation I felt sick. Stuck. And I couldn’t move. So I walked away from it. I rang a colleague in the writing world and she supported my decision. We don’t know each other well, but we have a huge amount of mutual respect for each other’s work, so I knew our conversation would be in confidence. It was. And is. At the end of the chat, she said something like “Go forth, you are destined for greatness Samantha”.

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In our darkest moments of doubt and fear it’s always good to check the internal fences. Are we under nourished or overfed at the time of panic or judgement? Have we given our kidneys a fair bit of a nudge with coffee, stress and lack of sleep? In Chinese medicine the kidneys manage our fears while the liver governs our anger radar.

The hormone cortisol is produced in the adrenal cortex in response to adrenal cortical stimulating hormone (ACTH) produced in the pituitary gland. Cortisol plays an important role in regulating blood sugar, energy production, inflammation, the immune system and healing. Cortisol is elevated in response to stress. The adrenal glands are not particular, any kind of stress will do. The stress can be physical, environmental, chemical or imaginary. The human brain is hard-wired with automatic responses to protect the body from harm so the kidneys will often buddy-up with the liver which creates a cycle of gastro-adrenal fatigue and confusion.

Our digestive system is an intricate cellular matrix of delicately integrated components, recently well documented as the ‘second brain’. It is home to over one hundred million neurons, many more than our spiny backbones. It can provide us practitioners with an enormous amount of information regarding a person’s overall health, energy and their emotional responses.

Butterflies, nerves and nausea, even a woman’s intuition, may be a subliminal function of the Enteric Nervous System (ENS). However, the clinical diagnosis of Irritable Bowel Syndrome has recently served as a banner band-aid for a belly full of discomforting symptoms, stress-related illnesses, and worse, disease.

The role of the ENS is to regulate the normal digestive activity of the digestive system and prepare it for whatever its future may hold. Like it’s spiny cousin the Central Nervous System, your ENS is a thriving population of healthy Intestinal Flower Power that loves to transmit and process messages from those diverse and unique bubbling hotspots: cells and circuits, neurons and neurotransmitters.

So the next time you think twice about crossing the street or trusting a new neighbour or colleague, listen to your gut because chances are, your belly is trying to tell you something that your brain upstairs cannot put into words.

I know my belly was, and just recently it was proved right. Again.

Don’t ya just love that?!!

Happy Monday,

Sam xx

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