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The Gut-Brain Connection

December 1, 2011
By Tracy Piper
|14Comments|


The digestive tract, or the gastrointestinal tract, or even the gut, as it is sometimes called, is the basis of digestion. The health of the digestive system affects the health of the body physically emotionally, mentally and spiritually. In the book “The Second Brain,” Dr. Mark Gershon identifies the connection between the gut and the brain. The digestive system and the brain first came from the same connective tissue. Did you know that the digestive system has more nerve endings than the central nervous system? Yes, it does. How does this affect the emotional connection between the gut and the brain? The nervous system is able to handle reflexes in the digestive system without any input from the central nervous system. How cool is that?

As an oriental medicine practitioner, the physical and emotional components of the organs are a big part of my practice.

Heart: The principle organ is sensitive to emotional states. The heart governs the blood vessels, stores the spirit and opens to the tongue. The positive feelings of the heart are joy, expansiveness, uplifting emotions, courage and valor. The negative emotions are sadness, constrictiveness, guilt and deceit. They all weaken the heart. Its taste is bitter and its element is fire.

Lungs: The lungs are the canopy of the viscera. The lungs and the large intestines are intertwined (sisters). The emotions of the lungs are sadness, bereavement and grief. The lungs need their “breathing room” or psychic space. If the lungs felt smothered, denied or invalidated, then asthma or other respiratory illness would arise.

Stomach/Spleen: The stomach governs energy flow throughout the gut. The stomach and spleen are intertwined. The spleen deals with worrying, pensiveness. Its flavor is sweet and its element is earth.

Liver/Gallbladder: The liver is free coursing, stores the blood and governs the sinews. The liver’s element is wood and its flavor is sour. Bile is produced by the liver and stored in the gallbladder. These two organs are vulnerable to choleric emotions, such as anger, anxiety, irritability, frustration, jealousy and resentment. These negative emotions are stored in these organs and slowly eat away at them. An example is anger and rage that move upward to the head, causing hot head, red eyes, headache or migraine and bloodshot eyes. There may also be a pressure-like feeling around the ribcage.

Kidneys: The kidneys are responsible for the reproductive organs. Their color is blue/black and their element is water. The emotions associated with the kidneys are fear and shock. If someone is overcome with fear, they may lose control of their bladder, causing spontaneous urination. Positive emotions of the kidneys are self-esteem, security and willpower.

Colon: The colon is sensitive to all the emotions going on in the other organs. As a colon therapist, I have seen many people with digestive disorders clear them up not only with colon hydrotherapy, but also by becoming aware of suppressed emotions. I have worked with many people with various types of digestive disorders. One that is most common is constipation. Constipation tends to be emotionally linked to not being able to let go, or as a child feeling ashamed of going to the bathroom because someone might have been anal about bathroom matters, or being called “stinky” when they had a bowel movement.

These emotions get trapped deep inside the colon, and the person at times doesn’t even know they are there. During colon therapy sessions, sometimes the colonic may be uncomfortable as the emotions are being uprooted. As the emotions come to the surface, the discomfort subsides and the fecal matter really flows out of the body. At times, someone may become very emotional, either crying, melancholy or angry. This is all good for the client to move forward in their life.

I asked a client if I could share this story because I thought it was so interesting. A client with chronic constipation that I have been working with for a while doing emotional release colonics mentioned a story that triggered an amazing colonic release. In an emotional release colonic, I find a subject that creates a trigger in the client. For this client, it was going through old wedding videos of her kids’ weddings one weekend. She got to one in particular that she started to talk about. In the beginning of the session, I could hardly get a full release until the subject came up. I noticed the water changing color and the client voiced slight cramping (peristalsis). I asked her to continue with the story. The events and anxiety of the day unfolded: one of her children went out on the balcony after the wedding to jump (attempting to commit suicide), and she talked him off the ledge. She then had to push this aside and return to the wedding party, and not let the newlyweds know what had just transpired. Reviewing this, she realized that the wedding was not filled with only joy in the beginning but fear and horror in the end. This event happened 10 years ago and still had a severe effect on her colon health. At times, going over past events may be emotional for the client. When that happens, I just hold space with them to help them get through it. If necessary, they are referred to a psychologist.

As Bernard Jensen states, “Success, health and happiness lie within me, they do not come from the outside.” The proper balance of our physical and emotional life is important to our everyday lives. To understand the connection between mind and body, we must realize that total health includes mind, body and soul.

What if there’s a disorder in any of the organs mentioned? What do you do? Acupuncture alone may be administered to address excess or deficiency using traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture or my famous AcuColonic, which combines acupuncture and colonics to increase circulation and release within the gastrointestinal system. This treatment is geared toward not only physical release but also emotional release. Having acupuncture either before but more effectively during a colonic is beneficial to the circulatory system and healing of these organs. When a client tells me their chief complaint, the client is assessed, a TCM diagnosis is rendered and the acupuncture points are chosen. The organs that are out of balance decide which points are chosen to accompany the colonic. Sadness, grief, anger or fear may be addressed and the client will express and release these emotions during the colonic session.

You see, when the bowels become overloaded with fecal matter, there is an increased load on other organs of the body, especially the eliminative organs. Most of the time, the organs are unable to handle this load due to suppression of the organs functions from “civilized living.” So the body stores the toxins in the joints, connective tissue and fat cells. If the bowels are unable to function at optimal capacity, the liquid waste matter will be reabsorbed into the body. When this occurs, the blood carries it through the circulation system, where toxins are deposited into the other eliminative organs, such as the skin (the largest eliminative organ), the lungs, kidneys, liver and gallbladder. Even though the heart is not an eliminative organ, the toxic load puts a lot of stress on it and thus it is compromised as well.

Then the skin gets involved. The skin tries hard to get rid of the toxins and we see it first by dull complexion, grayish undertone, pimples and acne. The sweat and sebaceous glands of the skin work overtime to release these toxins. In Chinese medicine, the skin is part of the lungs, so of course the lungs come to the rescue, “grieving” from the toxic load it has to overcome. The lungs do their part by cleansing the blood of the byproduct of respiration, carbon dioxide.

As you remember, the lungs and the skin are intertwined, so you must know that the lungs and the colon are sisters, making up the metal element of Chinese medicine. So if the lungs are overburdened or congested, then of course its sister will be the same. If the lungs are dealing with grief, then it is stored in the colon. A perfect example is when someone has halitosis, this is not from a dirty mouth, but from the stagnant matter in the colon riding upward and being expressed in the breath.

How do you feel physically when you’re toxic? How is your temperament? I hope this article shows you how toxins in the body not only affect you physically but also emotionally, mentally and spiritually. Mind, body and soul are one.

Tracy Piper, Colon Girl

Photo credit: gravakadavra



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14 responses to The Gut-Brain Connection
  1. Thank you, very interesting…. I needed this very much :)
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  2. Thanks! Very interesting!

  3. I think it’s a good idea to keep from labeling our emotions as positive or negative. A better designation might be calling them more difficult and less difficult. For each person it is different – love might be an easy emotion for some and a difficult one for others. In that way it could be viewed as a positive or a negative feeling for that person. Fear and anger are often called “negative” emotions – but they seem pretty positive if they supply one’s fight/flight response in an attack and save that person’s life! We need all our emotions, they are all useful and have their gifts and therefore are never really all negative or all positive. (BTW great descriptions of 5e theory for non-acupuncturists! I’m a 5e trained acupunk myself :)

  4. There’s a reason we can describe being able to ‘feel it in the guts’. I suffered from acid reflux for years, which was triggered by anxiety but the underlaying truth was the grief of losing my mum. Healing my grief allowed the stomach to relax and the worries which had preyed on me dissipated. My stomach settled down after years of serious acid problems.

  5. Thank you for this article! I was diagnosed with IBS four years ago and since then I preach the gut-brain connection.

  6. Kim, you are absolutely right. Thank you for correcting me on that. All emotions are necessary, it’s when we are unable to identify or use these emotions in ways that are productive to our health. My response was late duet f=dealing with the same example you wrote about love-funny huh. Thanks for your input.

  7. Emily, im so proud of you and the work you did to get to the “root” of the issue. That takes a lot of courage and strength to go through the process. One of my favorite quotes is: Courage…. not the absence of fear or despair, but the strength to conquer them. I love this so much i had it stenciled on my wall so it the first thing i see when i open my eyes in the morning and the last thing at night. Continue to work on your journey of healing.

  8. Bethany, great. If you need any further help, please feel free to reach out to me.

  9. Gorgeous fantastic distribute. It will always be agreeable plus helpful submit. Many thanks for providing a lot of these ideal hunt ideas

  10. What you were saying about the heart is really interesting. It’s funny how you can make your heart race just by thinking. Have you heard of the work of Dr. Natasha Cambell McBride on the gut brain connection?

  11. Yes, I agree with you that toxins in body not only affect you physically but also emotionally and i feel it every time whenever i suffer from diseases..

  12. Loved this article. It put a lot of things regarding my body: skin, organs, colon, etc into perspective. Thanks

  13. Great article, this is at the root of Taoist teachings and is thousands of years old. The practice of smiling at your lower mind and learning use it in your daily life is life changing.

  14. Ron said on April 3, 2013

    The Second Brain is written by Dr. Michael D.Gershon