For most of my life, I had digestive distress. As a child, I would get stomachaches all the time. As I grew older, I remember running to the bathroom every morning before school. It seemed as if nothing I ate agreed with me. As an adult, much of what I ate made me feel tired and bloated. In fact, there were times in my life when it was easier not to eat at all, and I wished I never had to. After a lifetime of war, I embarked on a 10-year plus healing path to improve both my digestion and my tumultuous relationship with food. I learned many things along the way, and what I want to share most is not a specific methodology for healing the gut, but rather a MACRO look at what is digestion.
From studying Traditional Chinese Medicine as well as various metaphysical approaches to healing, I learned that our relationship to our digestion is directly related to our relationship with our environment. This relates to both our physical and situational environments. The digestive tract (in addition to our skin, and respiratory system) is where our bodies come into direct contact with the elements and microbes from the outside. So with this perspective, our digestion can be looked at as a manifestation of our body assimilating our external conditions. Basically, how are we processing what is in our world? This seems to be an all-encompassing category – it’s no wonder digestive distress and imbalance is a huge issue for so many of us. It also makes sense if we classify ourselves as sensitive individuals (particularly affected by the world around us), there becomes an overload of information and emotions to process, which makes it more likely for us to have digestive disruption.
Let’s hone in on just a few key organs associated with digestion from a consciousness perspective.
- The role of the stomach and stomach meridian includes both acceptance and digestion of life.
- The consciousness of small intestine includes discernment between what’s good for us and what’s bad for us (in both internal and external environments).
- Consciousness states of the colon include both control and letting go versus holding on.
Knowing these alternative functions of these digestive organs begs the question: What IS my relationship to the situations and conditions all around me? (aka-life)
Acknowledging the big picture can lead to both an a-ha moment as well as physiological changes.
– What in your life are you consciously or unconsciously saying “no” to? Meaning, I will not accept this. Being clear on what you want is great, but you can only get there by first accepting what is. Oxymoron- I know. Accepting puts you in a flow and then you can start flowing to what you want. Saying NO to life puts flow to a screeching halt.
– Is there an aspect of your life you cannot stomach? What is your relationship to life as a whole? Is it dangerous? Is it safe? Are there situations that are toxic or poisonous? This resistance or perceived danger can often manifest in our actual digestion.
– In terms of acceptance, what aspects of yourself are you rejecting? Yes, self-improvement measures are great, but when we deny where we actually are, again we are no longer in the flow of life. Or perhaps you are denying things you really want in favor of what is acceptable to want? What situations are yours to digest and what burdens are not yours to handle? This is a big one for many.
When we can examine where we stand with processing what is around us, it can have huge impact on our ability to flow with life and digest food. It can also have an impact on what types of food we crave and the way we eat. We may no longer eat to numb or block out emotions. We may be able to assimilate nutrients better. We may be drawn to eating more whole foods and be able to break them down better. We may be satisfied with less, or we may need to eat more.
After years of exploration with diet and supplements (which definitely helped), it was facing head-on what I was avoiding in my life, staring directly into my fears, and living a life in more accordance with who I am that became the largest turning point in my relationship with food and digestion. The biggest change for me was discovering that I CAN trust my body to know how much it needs, what it wants, and that it can handle the processing of it.
Stay tuned to part 2 discussing more specifics on how our relationship to the environment affects digestion through the nervous system and the microbiome of the gut.