When a person has a foul mood, people often say that they’re “full of it.” Although they’re talking about the person’s emotional state, this phrase may be physically true. A person in a bad mood may actually be constipated or at least have serious issues with the health of their intestinal tract.
Most people are not aware of how the health of their gastrointestinal system affects their mental health, but it does. Irritability, depression and anxiety have all been linked with problems in the gastrointestinal tract. Researchers now realize that we have a “gut brain” that produces neurotransmitters that directly influence our emotional state.
If you think about it, you will readily recognize that constipation impacts your mood. When you’re physically “full of it,” you feel weighed down. You feel “heavy” and have less energy. Once you “let go of it” you feel “lighter” and your energy and mood improve. This demonstrates how digestive and colon health can be linked to our emotions.
These subjective observations can be backed up by scientific research. There are studies that show strong links between Celiac disease (which is an inability to digest gluten that causes intestinal damage when foods containing gluten are consumed) and depression. Studies have also linked food allergies and yeast overgrowth (Candida) with depression. One study showed that up to 94% of people with inflammatory bowel disorders suffered from mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.
Unfortunately, doctors often overlook this gut-brain connection when treating mental health problems. The drugs they give people for their anxiety or depression don’t fix the health of the person’s “gut brain” so the underlying cause of their foul mood, the toxins in their digestive tract, is never addressed. So, let’s take a few minutes to examine this connection and then look at some solutions that can help us have a better mood by improving the health of our gut brain.
The Gut-Brain Connection
The official name of the gut brain is the enteric nervous system (ENS). The ENS system is part of the autonomic nervous system. It regulates digestion and manages the motility of muscles that move food and waste through the gastrointestinal tract. It handles this job primarily on its own, without a lot of help from the brain, which is why it has the ability to “think” independently from the brain. It also send signals to the brain.
The vagus nerve, which links the brain and the organs of the chest and abdomen is primarily a sensory system. Eighty to ninety percent of the neurons are sending information from the internal organs to the brain, which means the brain is monitoring the health of the guts, heart and lungs.
This means that some feelings are actually the result of your ENS trying to tell your brain something is wrong down below. This is why it’s important to consider how foods make you feel. By keeping a food journal to record both what you eat and how you feel throughout the day, you may become aware that certain foods make you feel “bad” either physically or emotionally. This is a signal that your body is not handling these foods very well and it may be best to avoid them.
Of course, this is a two-way street. Thoughts and emotions also produce sensations in the guts, such as feeling “butterflies” in the stomach when you’re nervous or that nauseous feeling you get when something bad happens. Experiences can be “gut-wrenching” or even “moving.” Being an “up tight” person means we may also wind up being “tight-assed” and constipated. Thus, “letting go” of negative feelings can also help us “go” better when we need to eliminate.
Iridology and the Gut Brain
In iridology, the collarette or nerve wreath represents two things. First, it is the lining of the colon, the place where nutrients are absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract. Secondly, it represents the function of the autonomic nervous system. So, signs in this area have two meanings. First, they reflect colon health and secondly, they reflect the health of the autonomic nervous system, or more accurately, the enteric nervous system.
The collarette is highlighted in the following photo.
When I first learned about radial furrows, people called them parasite lines. This is inaccurate. While they do signal a biological terrain that is conducive to parasites, you cannot tell if a person has parasites from their iris.
What these lines really are is a weakness in the enteric nervous system, because they form “breaks” in the collarette. This creates a corresponding weakness in the colon—an area that is prone to improperly filter toxins out of the body. In other words, they are more linked with a tendency to leaky gut than they are with parasites. They indicate a need for the colon to be both cleansed and toned (firmed up and healed).
But, they also have an emotional interpretation, something I learned from the Australian naturopath Dorothy Hall. Radial furrows indicate toxic mental attitudes and a tendency to self-defeating behaviors. In other words, the person with these lines usually judges themselves too harshly. Their inward “self-talk” is usually negative, meaning they tend to be overly self-critical.
This is just one example of how collarette signs can indicate strong connections between the physical health of the colon and a person’s emotional state and mental attitude. Which came first, the emotional attitude or the physical issue, is not a debate I wish to engage in. The fact that the physical and emotional mirror each other is all that’s important to me because I always try to help heal on both levels.
Healing the Gut Brain
One of the reasons I prefer herbs over drugs for healing is because herbs are multi-dimensional in their actions. Herbs affect the body, but because they are living things, they can also possess a vibration or energy that affects us mentally and emotionally. Thus, many herbs for the gut also have strong emotional effects and vice-versa.
For example, one of the primary herbs people use for depression and anxiety, St. John’s wort #655-3, is also a regulator of digestion. St. John’s wort helps regulate the solar plexus, supporting the health of the gut brain. Herbalist Matthew Wood claims it’s helpful for people who are out of touch with their “gut instincts.” In many cases we are trained in modern society to ignore the wisdom of our heart and guts, which means we also ignore the signals they are giving us about what is good for us or bad for us. Thus, we wind up doing harmful things to our bodies, which also make us feel emotionally out of balance.
St. John’s wort helps a person tune into the wisdom of their gut brain.
The combination of St. John’s wort and Kudzu is also a great regulator of the gut brain. Kudzu/St. John’s wort #975-6, one of the two combinations we’re featuring this week, helps reduce problems with intestinal inflammation and leaky gut syndrome. This can be an underlying issue in ADHD, irritability, moodiness and depression. Kudzu/St. John’s wort is also used to help overcome addiction to alcohol and it helps with headaches and stiffness in the neck.
Another great remedy for balancing the gut brain is the traditional Chinese formula Mood Elevator TCM #1035-7, Mood Elevator helps clear congestion from the intestines and liver. It relieves “sagging chi” or energy that causes low, depressed and gloomy feelings. Again, it works both physically and emotionally as it also helps to tone the colon, being a remedy for a prolapsed or “sagging” colon.
Of course, it can be helpful to just do a good cleanse. I particularly like the Tiao He Cleanse #3050-5 because it contains the Chinese Liver Balance formula, which supports liver health. There is a big connection between the liver and feeling “full of it,” too. Liver Balance isn’t so much for the depressed side of the gut brain issue, however, it’s more for people who feel irritable and on-edge.
One final remedy to consider is Gentle Move #952-9. This blend has a mild laxative action (especially if you drink plenty of water, but it is also a colon tonic. It helps rebuild gut health and it can also improve mood. FOR CHILDREN LB Extract #1794-1
The bottom line, however, is that if you want to have a bright and happy mood, pay attention to the health of your guts. Eating healthy food, drinking plenty of purified water and staying regular with your elimination will probably do more for your mental and emotional health than any of the prescription medications millions of Americans are taking. So, don’t be “full of it.” Instead, lighten up and let go, both physically and emotionally.
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