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  • Writer's pictureCandace Porter

A Calmer Gut and Mind: How Did I Heal My Gut Via Yoga?

Updated: Sep 23, 2022


Hold on tight… this is a long (but worth it!) one:


Shortly into my yoga journey, I began studying and practicing yoga for ailments I may often experience. My gut being the number one recurring upset.


A little background- for at least 7 years (that I can remember) I had dealt with extreme discomfort episodes that would last a handful of days at a time. During these “episodes”, as I would call them, I could hardly eat or drink, even water, without seeming to experience worse pain.


I had all of the unpleasant gastrointestinal symptoms- extreme bloating, acid-reflux, and sometimes vomiting. I was hindered from daily tasks and activities that I enjoyed, and let’s just say- sleep was almost non existent for me during these “episodes”. The worst part- no one could find anything wrong.


I went as far as a GI scope at one point, and gastritis (general inflammation of the gut) is all that was found. No ulcer, nothing obviously the issue. I’m ashamed to admit that I used prescribed pharmaceuticals- of which no relief was had. (Realizing later that I was taking medication for no real diagnosis.)


I won’t go into this, but- I’m disheartened that I didn’t have a doctor that was asking me what I consumed on a daily basis or what activities I was involved in. Rather, “let’s try this drug” and see what happens.


Fast forward- one night I could feel an episode coming on… and I decided to get on my mat- searching the internet for every yoga pose that would supposedly relieve the discomfort of “digestive issues”. To my surprise, I found some relief in particular asanas or holding postures. Was I cured? No. Did it completely eliminate what I was experiencing? No. But in that moment, a seed was planted in my mind.


Instead of curling up in a ball like I had to normally do to find any relief, and whining about “what could be wrong?!”, I made the decision to work WITH myself that night, rather than against.


I, prior, vividly remember for years on end saying to myself and even out loud to loved ones “my body hates me”. If I only knew the additional damage that was doing… 😔


Back to the story.. I made the decision to take the time to sit in the asanas and simply (listen). I listened to my belly, and in that moment realizing- I have to give you (my gut) what you are craving/lacking and I have to remove what I can that is not serving your highest function.


My life- the vitality of my body- in that moment took a redirection. I was determined to learn as much as I could about what I should be adding to my everyday consumption, and what I should place limits on.


The rest is absolute history. I gained a relationship with my body that was never there before. And still to this day, am continuing to build and nourish that relationship.


All of this to say.. there is a way to free yourself from the “garbage”, for lack of a better word, that we are literally “fed” into our bodies, but into our minds too.


I’m here to tell you, that YOU are in control of YOU. YOU get to decide how optimal your machine is running. You choose the fuel- internally and externally. You are the gatekeeper of your mouth, of what you allow inside this precious body you have. And you are also in charge of the thoughts you have towards your body and self.


I have, through a long journey (one that has and will not end until I am no longer here in the physical world) found a profound ability to love and nourish myself through physical ailments.


I am proud to say that through daily optimal hydration, whole food consumption (including those containing beautiful pre/probiotics), balanced nutrients, the right amount of exercise, and mindfulness too, I am {on most days} experiencing a vibrant mental and physical state of being.


I want mention, I say {most days} because well, hormones get in the way some months- and so does real life aka stressors.  But, let’s not be discouraged by the “bad”, not optimal days- because guess what- they pass! And without the valleys, as you know, the mountain tops aren’t as enjoyable.


I’m not going to lie to you… the healing process is not over night. It is not always simple. But, I can say there is nothing like the reward that you can potentially experience if you, too, have dealt with similar issues.


And the way I see it- if our body, health, & wellness is not the top priority in your life, then what is there really to live for? That’s just how serious it is- you simply won’t. You will not live free of disease, pain, etc. if you don’t make YOU (body and mind) the number one priority when choosing your overall daily habits.


Trust me, I get it. We are busy. So many of you have beautiful families- are spending most of your time being a rockstar parent- juggling tasks, jobs, schedules, relationships. But what are the significance of these things if your longevity and quality of that longevity aren’t at the forefront of the priory list? Not to mention, the great examples we can set for others, loved ones, kids… along the way.


Back to the topic- I think I could discuss for hours the importance of the gut alone- the microbiome that makes us who we are. But, I’m just going to encourage you to take the time to learn all you can, finding YOUR ‘user manual’ to YOUR body.


For me, with even just a few yoga sessions a week- I can feel the difference particular flows and asanas make for my body, and digestion specifically. This optimal functionality of the digestive system, and other organ functions too, for me, truly impact my mood, energy, and day-to-day motivation and enjoyment.


I hope you can meet yourself on the mat the way I have, and reap the obvious, multitude of benefits that are right at your fingertips.. and be able to take them off the mat and into the world around us.


Candace Porter

Founder of Cavanal Calm Yoga


Want the science?

*An excerpt from an eye-opening blog I previously came across in my research:


Have you ever had a “gut-wrenching” experience? Do certain situations make you “feel nauseous”? Have you ever felt “butterflies” in your stomach? Most of us have and this is because our gut is sensitive to emotions.


So what’s going on inside our gut? Microbiome or gut microbiota seems to be the buzzword at the moment and for a good reason. There are approximately 100 trillion microorganisms within the gastro-intestinal (GI) tract. While most of the microbes are bacteria, the intestine can also harbor yeasts, viruses and small parasitic worms. If there is an imbalance of bacteria, in other words, if there are more bad bacteria than good, this can cause many health conditions.


What causes the microbiome to become imbalanced?

Environment – pesticides, herbicides, synthetic hormones, pollution

Foods – intolerances, processed foods, high sugar foods, high trans-fat foods

Under-active digestion (low stomach acid)

Chronic stress Medication – contraceptive pill, painkillers, sleeping tablets, thrush treatments, antibiotics, anti-inflammatories e.g. Nurofen and Voltaren


The brain communicates with the gut via the parasympathetic (PNS), sympathetic (SNS) and enteric nervous systems (ENS). This is called the gut-brain axis. The ENS is sometimes called ‘the second brain’. In Irritable Bowel Syndrome, for example, stress often leads to over-stimulation of the SNS which interferes with the way food is digested, leading to pain, discomfort and altered bowel motility.


Did you know that 90% of our neurotransmitters, adrenaline and serotonin for example, the feel-good chemicals in our bodies, are formed in the gut? So if our digestive system is compromised in any way, our mental health will be suffering.


The effect of stress..

Given how closely the gut and brain interact, it becomes easier to understand why you might feel nauseated before giving a presentation or feel intestinal pain during times of stress. Stress (or depression or other psychological factors) can affect movement and contractions of the gut, make inflammation worse, or perhaps make you more susceptible to infection.


There is strong evidence that exposure to stress may be responsible for the dysregulation of the brain-gut axis, thus leading to the different diseases of the gut.


What can you do about it?

Avoid inflammatory foods that can irritate/inflame the mucosal layer. These include gluten, refined carbohydrates and sugar, too much caffeine/alcohol.


Eat a whole food diet:

Anti-inflammatory foods – turmeric, ginger, onion, garlic, oily fish, green leafy vegetables

Tryptophan foods – chicken, turkey, bananas, oily fish, nuts, seeds, whole grains

Glutamine – Fish and meat such as beef, chicken, pork and turkey, beans, milk, yogurt, ricotta cheese and cottage cheese, raw spinach, cabbage and parsley.

Slippery elm – add to smoothies

Zinc – oysters, nuts, seeds, red meats

Vitamin A/Beta-carotene – egg yolks, orange vegetables, salmon

Gelatine Fermented foods (probiotics) – kim chi, sauerkraut, kefirKombucha tea, bone broth


Reduce your stress with:

Meditation

Massage

Yoga

Exercise

Mindful eating


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