Digesting Emotions

What’s the Gut Got to Do with It?

According to ancient Taoist philosophy, we literally digest emotions. We have to process them. Starting in the mouth, we take in information from the outside world through taste and chewing. In the stomach and small intestines, we break stuff apart and sort through it to understand what’s there. Then, in both the small and large intestines, we differentiate what to assimilate and what to discard. We acknowledge this concept in our language: upsetting emotions can leave a bad taste our mouths or we simply can’t stomach something.

Scientific knowledge validates ancient wisdom. We are beginning to understand the profound role of gut neurotransmitters and gut flora in influencing emotions. The science on the gut-brain connection articulates how stress and emotions influence digestion, and how imbalances in the digestive tract can also impact mood. 

Rewiring Chronic Stress

Practices for Building Resilience

We are in the midst of a pandemic of stress. It’s not just Covid-19. It’s climate change, economic insecurity, and the continual erosion of the political landscape. And then it’s whatever we might have going on personally, with health or relationships, with our families and our jobs. There’s a lot to process.

Under stress, our brains are wired toward negativity. The limbic system, a primitive part of the brain, developed the negativity bias to keep us safe. It evolved to help us detect and escape danger. It helps us remember information and experiences that threaten our safety. It heightens stress responses and increases vigilance. Unfortunately, sometimes the limbic system can get stuck in the on-position, and it can be hard to regain a sense of safety and come out of hyper-vigilance.