I know how frustrating it is to feel like you’re doing all of the ‘right’ things such as following a gluten free + dairy free, keto, anti-inflammatiory, paleo diet of sorts and you’re every supplement possible, but you’re still suffering from gut issues or hormone imbalances, and haven’t noticed a drastic improvement in your mental health and overall well-being.
And I want you to know that by just taking digestive enzymes and gut-healing nutrients, this doesn’t always resolve the spectrum of underlying causes unless you address the brain-gut dysfunction – our brain is what makes us produce digestive enzymes in the first place and directs blood flow to the gut!
One of the key things that would highlight the brain-gut being an issue, is if you have issues with gut motility, such as having constipation, having to drink coffee to have a bowel movement, relying on magnesium or laxatives for bowel movements, or if you have chronic & unresolved bloating.
If there is no gut motility or production of digestive enzymes due to dysfunction in the brain, this is what will cause intestinal hyperpermeability (“leaky gut”) and then a range of downstream effects that drive chronic inflammation and an overactive immune system that can develop into an autoimmune condition. So we may need to take a step back and approach chronic gut conditions from the brain down! Supplements can certainly help, but they won’t ultimately treat the underlying cause. In this case, we must develop plasticity and new neural connections. What does this look like?
Firstly, it involves our neurons firing into each other causing the brain to stimulate the vagus nerve which then fires into the gut nervous system causing the migrating motor complex to function properly (which means gut motility will be functioning optimally) yay!
So let’s get down to some of the key tools for firing up your vagus nerve and working from the brain down to ensure we are properly treating gut and preventing autoimmune and neuro-degeneration!
Here are some of my favorite tips:
- Coffee Enemas– NOT for ‘detox’ reasons, this tool is useful due to the caffeine which stimulates gastrointestinal nicotinic cholinergic receptors, which makes the gut move along. The key here is to get enough coffee so that you have to force yourself to actually suppress the urge to have a bowel movement – lay on your side and do the enema, and when you have an urge to have a bowel movement hang out there as long as you can, suppressing the urge.
- Inducing Your Gag Reflex –While this may seem counter-intuitive, it does work! Buy a box of tongue blades and use one to push down on the back of your tongue until you gag, which will make your eyes start to tear. Doing this activates the pathway, developing neural connections and getting plasticity going. Just be careful not to push it on the back of your throat which could cause injury.
- Gargling –Drink a big gulp of water, put it into the back of your throat and gargle to the point of tearing up. You must really work it out and gargle aggressively enough so that it makes your eyes tear, since the vagus is right next to an area called the superior salivatory nucleus, which causes you to tear. If this area of the brain isn’t functioning well, you may have a hard time gargling, only being able to gargle for 3 or 4 second before having to spit it out. Build it up over time until you can do it for several minutes and you’re tearing consistently. This is how you activate it! And do it daily.
Some other techniques you can use to ensure you’re promoting your parasympathetic, “rest & digest” nervous system, is to ensure optimal digestion & adequate blood flow to your digestive organs:
- Breathing deeply
- Massage (yes please!)
- Chewing slowly
- Singling LOUDLY
It might not seem like a typical ‘prescription,’ but please focus on incorporating these vagus nerve stimulating techniques if you have unresolved gut, autoimmune and mental health imbalances such as anxiety, to ensure the brain-gut axis is working both ways. Continually doing these tips can build endurance and start to retrain your brain-gut axis.