When stress gets in the way
Most sufferers of IBS intuitively know that stress is a major aggravator of symptoms. What they may not realise is that in many cases it is the cause of the trouble in the first place.
When we experience anxiety or stress, we are experiencing the physiological and psychological discomfort that goes hand in hand with the stress response.
Our primal response to stress, ‘fight or flight,’ is to shut down all unnecessary functioning and get us ready for a speedy getaway.
The digestion of food is extremely energy intensive and won’t directly assist our ‘fight or flight’ capability, and so it faces immediate shutdown.
Whatever waste is lined up in our large intestines is quickly shown the exit door before the water content has been filtered out for future use. So we find ourselves prone to a bit of spontaneous diarrhoea to make us leaner or meaner in our bid for survival.
Meanwhile, the peristaltic flow of our small intestines grinds to a halt as we engage in vital energy conservation processes and the water solution that would ordinarily be directed to our digestive mulch is saved for more immediate duties. As a result, we are left with an undigested brick clogging up our innards.
As an occasional life-saving device, it’s a very efficient way to respond. However, on an ongoing basis, it’s a disaster and a very uncomfortable one at that.
The difficulty arises because our biology is responding to the trials and tribulations of everyday life as if we have a potentially imminent appointment with the Grim Reaper.
Part of the reason is that our nervous systems are simply overwhelmed with the sheer quantity and intensity of modern stimuli. It can’t quite cope and goes into spasms of survivalist shutdown.
The other reason is that quite often in the case of IBS, we have been subject to some stressful traumas early in life, possibly while still in the womb. As a result, our default programming has been corrupted by circumstances, and it has made us extremely susceptible to digestive complaints whenever we are even mildly challenged.
Both of these reasons explain why so often those that suffer from IBS find themselves feeling like they are closer to the stress threshold than they would comfortably like to be.
This is because the ‘fight or flight’ branch of their nervous system is in a permanent state of arousal and will be triggered into major activation by the merest hint of drama.
And if we are experiencing frequent intermittent stressors, as is the way in our modern world, then this constant shutdown and re-firing of the digestive processes may cause peristaltic fluctuations that may be uncomfortable in the extreme and also very painful.
Peristalsis is meant to be a gentle and constant uni-directional flow through our intestines much like the way an earthworm processes earth, not the schizophrenic propulsion and shutdown that we often subject it to. And some remedies for IBS can end up being equally troublesome.
How can Vedic meditation help with treating IBS?
Meditation works as a treatment for IBS on a number of levels to relieve the situation.
First and most obviously, this practice calms the nervous system down and takes us away from the stress threshold. As a result, we find ourselves more at ease, and our digestive rhythms are less compromised by intermittent stress.
Secondly, by giving the mind, body and nervous system such profound levels of rest, we can begin to free ourselves of the negative programming which may have caused us to have such an acute physiological response in the first place. A restoration of our natural creative intelligence follows.
Thirdly, our serotonin levels, which are often intimately linked with IBS, will become more balanced and will mean we have no requirement for pharmacological substitutes.
And lastly, while we transition from the discomfort of the disorder to a healthy and sustainable mode of digestive harmony, our natural production of opioids will be stimulated and we will be much freer of any pain. The result is a natural IBS treatment that has benefits for the whole body.
It’s been about four months since I started meditating and I’ve had one tummy upset because I ate something bad. Anyone who suffers from IBS will understand what a miracle that is! My morning poo is one of my favourite times of day. I’ve never been so regular in my life and it’s awesome!!! No more trapped wind, bloatedness, cramps...it’s magic.
Erica, Student, London