Our digestive system is a wonderful but complicated process within the body and key to our personal wellbeing in more ways than you might think! You may have heard about the connection between mental and physical well-being. But more specifically, how do emotions affect digestion?
Digestion starts within the mouth, chewing and swallowing. Next is the stomach, which is fundamentally a muscular bag that churns our food, adds enzymes and begins the all-important process of absorption. We then have the small and large intestines that continue with the absorption of vital nutrients before the waste is discarded. Other organs which play a vital role in digestion are our liver, gall bladder and pancreas. It is a fine-tuned system but – like many things in life – can so easily be interrupted or altered by our emotions.
When we are tense, anxious or worried, our body produces hormones to prepare us for the imminent ‘threat’ that we feel may be coming. I’m sure you have all heard of the fight or flight response. When this happens, our digestive system takes a knock. The body diverts energy and blood away from the digestive system to ready our muscles to react to what we perceive to be a danger or threat. This, in turn, causes changes to our digestion that can result in digestive conditions that are unpleasant and uncomfortable, causing us more stress and anxiety.
What can we do about it?
We are becoming more and more aware of the phrase ‘the gut-brain connection’. As we further understand the link between the two, we can help restore or maintain our digestive balance. Step one, something we know can have a positive effect on our emotions, is aromatherapy. We have some glorious essential oils that can help reduce anxiety, settle tummy discomfort and even help reduce bloating or trapped wind.
The best way to support your gut health with essential oils is to massage a blend over your abdomen. Neroli is a classic de-stressing essential oil, helping to soothe fraught emotions and settle your tummy. Peppermint is a renowned essential oil that can help soothe digestive discomfort. Bergamot is also helpful for reducing stress and settling your stomach.
De-Stressing self-massage blend
- 1 drop of Neroli Citrus aurantium amara
- 1 drop of Peppermint Mentha piperita
- 3 drops of Bergamot Citrus bergamia
A self-massage routine for your abdomen:
- Lie on your back with your knees bent.
- Take a small amount of the blend and warm it up in your hands.
- Place your hands centrally over your tummy and hold for a minute. Concentrate on relaxing the muscles and slowing your breath.
- Take one hand off and lay it beside your body to rest. With the other hand, make large slow circles around your belly button. Always go in a clockwise direction, as this mirrors the route of your digestive system. (12 o’clock above your belly button, 6 o’clock below your belly button)
- Now place one hand on the lower part of your tummy on the body’s right-hand side. Your fingers need to be pointing down towards your toes and resting just above your thigh.
- Using your fingertips, draw an arc up and around your belly button finishing on the opposite side to where you started, with the same hand. (Again, this is mirroring the natural route of the digestive system.)
- Repeat this move from the starting point, building pressure as you go. Imagine you are drawing a rainbow over your belly button.
- Now return to your starting point and repeat the circles around the belly button with your hand.
- To finish, lay both hands back over the tummy and hold for a minute.
About Jo Kellett
Our essential oil expert, Jo Kellett TIDHA MIFPA CIMI, graduated from the Tisserand Institute of Holistic Aromatherapy in 1996. She returned to the college in 1999 as Essential Oil Therapeutics Tutor, where she taught until the college closed. Jo runs a successful private Aromatherapy practice in Brighton, specialising in Women’s health. Jo is also an internationally published author and has lectured on the subject of Aromatherapy both in the UK and abroad.