In our fast-paced lives, stress has become common-place for many of us and this can have a profound effect on both our mental and physical well-being.
One area where stress often has a major effect is on our digestive system, leading to a wide range of possible gut symptoms.
As a health coach, I often find myself teaching clients a simple yet powerful technique that can significantly impact gut health: deep breathing.
Before explaining the benefits of deep breathing, it is important to understand the intricate relationship between the gut and the brain. The gut-brain connection is a bidirectional
communication system, where the health of one significantly influences the other. Stress and anxiety, common culprits in our modern lifestyle, can disrupt this delicate
balance, contributing to digestive issues such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), indigestion, reflux, bloating, constipation, diarrhoea, or abdominal pain.
How Deep Breathing Helps:
Deep breathing, also known as diaphragmatic or abdominal breathing, is a natural and effective way to activate the body’s relaxation response. When we are stressed, our sympathetic nervous system, responsible for the body’s &” fight or flight” response, goes into overdrive.
Deep breathing engages the parasympathetic nervous system, promoting a state of calm and relaxation.
Here’s how it can specifically benefit gut health:
- Reduced Stress Hormones: Deep breathing lowers the levels of stress hormones like cortisol in the body. High cortisol levels are associated with increased inflammation in the gut, exacerbating conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
- Improved Blood Flow: The rhythmic nature of deep breathing encourages better blood circulation. Enhanced blood flow to the digestive tract promotes optimal nutrient absorption and supports the overall health of the gastrointestinal tract.
- Relaxed Muscles: Tension in the abdominal muscles is a common manifestation of stress. Deep breathing helps relax these muscles, alleviating symptoms like cramping and spasms associated with conditions like IBS.
How to Practice Deep Breathing:
Now that we understand the connection between deep breathing and gut health, let’s practice a simple deep breathing exercise:
- Find a Quiet Space: Choose a quiet and comfortable space where you won’t be disturbed.
- Sit or Lie Down: Sit or lie down in a comfortable position. Place one hand on your chest and the other on your tummy.
- Inhale Slowly: Inhale deeply through your nose; as you slowly fill your lungs also stick out your tummy, and visualise all of your lung lobes fully inflating.
- Exhale Completely: Pause, then exhale slowly and completely through your mouth; blow out all the tension and worry as you breathe out fully. Feel your abdominal muscles contract as you pull your belly-button inwards, towards your spine.
- Repeat: Continue this deep, rhythmic breathing for 5-10 minutes. Focus on the rise and fall of your abdomen with each breath.
As we journey toward better gut health, don’t underestimate the power of deep breathing. As a health coach, I encourage my clients to incorporate this simple yet profound practice into their daily routines.
By embracing the calming influence of deep breathing, we not only support our mental well-being but also create a harmonious environment for a healthy and resilient gut.