How Chinese Medicine could help calm your IBS

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Why does stress give me IBS? Digestion is reduced during periods of stress, because the body uses as much energy as possible to solve the current problem – diverting circulation away from vital processes like the digestive system in order to supply more blood to the muscles. Feelings of stress or anxiety can mess with your digestive system precisely because of this connection between brain and stomach. Nobody knows how IBS starts, but there’s no doubt that stress can worsen symptoms. For one thing, stress can make the colon contract, leading to stomach pain. IBS can flare up over everyday annoyances, especially those that make a person feel tense, angry, or overwhelmed. But IBS – like other chronic conditions – is even more sensitive to the stress that comes from major life changes, such as a death in the family or loss of a job.

Chinese Medicine and IBS Chinese medicine believes that good circulation is key to good health. The stress response disrupts the smooth flow of Qi and blood by diverting it away from peripheral organs (including the digestion) and into the muscles. This impedes the efficiency of the digestive system. Moreover, the stress response produces heat and inflammation. Chinese Medicine would view IBS symptoms as the body trying to eliminate this heat out through a digestive tract that is overwhelmed and undernourished due to lack of blood and nutrients. So, the stomach is weakened and overloaded simultaneously.

Emotions and diet are considered to be opposite sides of the same coin in Chinese Medicine. Some say, “We are what we eat” but Chinese Medicine also considers that we are what we cannot digest – whether that’s food or an emotional state. We develop a form of ‘mental obesity’ where these undigested emotions clog us up and we effectively lose our capacity to make decisions and choices. Along with a good and varied diet, we need to encourage a good flow of circulation to support the digestive system and stimulate the vagus nerve to strengthen the mind/gut connection. The Hayo’u Method helps you let go of stress naturally, decreasing inflammation in the body.

What You'll Need

  • Gua sha tool (widely available online)

What You'll Do

  • This simple technique stimulates the Vagus nerve, which connects your brain and your stomach and is responsible for engaging the rest phase of your nervous system (PNS) rather than the sympathetic nervous system (the fight or flight state). Once the PNS becomes active, the individual’s body can start properly digesting food. The PNS also enables the body to heal wounds and generate cell restoration processes. When our nervous system is relaxed, this enables the stomach to relax, which in turn allows our digestive enzymes to start working optimally. These sharp exhalations are designed to expel toxicity rather than sending it downwards into the digestive tract. The smile into your lower abdomen is crucial if you suffer from IBS, because it overrides the emotional negativity of stress. This ancient Taoist trick holds much more weight now that Western scientific research is beginning to prove just how much our mental state can affect our physical health.First, expel stale air by breathing in through the nose and purposefully out through the mouth 3 times. This is to clear stagnant breath and Qi and carbon dioxide that accumulates during shallow breathing and stressful periods. Then take five deep breaths, inhale for five counts and then exhale for five. Allow mental energy to descend. During exhalation, direct a positive smile into lower abdomen. You can do an extended version of this ritual in your evening bath to activate the Parasympathetic Nervous System (rest phase).
  • Studies have demonstrated the efficacy of Gua Sha both in activating the rest phase of the nervous system, as a powerful anti-inflammatory technique and for its ability to improve microcirculation – all of which will help alleviate the symptoms of IBS. Gua Sha clears heat via the skin (the largest excretory organ in the body) rather than the digestive tract. Warm oil between palms then massage liberally and firmly into body. Notice areas of stress, tension or pain. Use a firm pressure and slowly sweep a gua sha tool (or coin, if you don't have one!) across the body, following arrows on the diagram. Do 8 strokes in each direction and repeat on the other side. If you are struggling to sleep, focus more attention on your chest to help stimulate blood flow and energy around the heart and the lungs.

Tips & Warnings

  • Gua Sha is a treatment designed to relieve muscular pain and tension and improve circulation. Results vary according to age, strength of body, skin type and medical conditions. If you are under the age of 16 and over the age of 60 or suffering specific medical conditions we do not recommend using the Body Restorer. At no point should treatment feel painful. Always start gently, observing the reaction to your skin and proceed with caution.
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