You would have often heard of how important gut health is. The better the gut health, the better is our overall well-being. A poor gut, and poor digestion leads to several health problems. But gut health is also defined by the gut-brain axis. The brain and the intestine are in regular communication through more than 100 million nerve cells. When you are constantly stressed, the composition of the intestinal microbiota is affected. The gut bacteria also plays an integral role in the balance of brain messengers, including serotonin, noradrenaline and dopamine.
What is yoga’s role in gut health?
Yoga works on every aspect of the body. It relieves stress by balancing the autonomic nervous system and activating the parasympathetic system. It allows you to connect with your own center by turning towards the central axis. The intestine, thus, comes to a point of rest giving the brain a break. Conscious practice allows you to accept what is there in a safe space. This rest and relaxation is good for the gut-brain axis. In this case, yoga for intestine cleansing is very effective.
Stress is one of the biggest factors that affects health and well-being. It can wreak havoc to one’s system, particularly the digestive process. Practices useful for this are mediation, yoga postures that work on the abdomen, core and back, as well as those that induce peace and calmness. Breathing techniques, like Alternate Nostril Breathing and Oceans Breath, also balance the system and invoke a rest and relaxation response.
Furthermore, yoga for digestion and stress influences health positively and in the same way as yoga does for gut inflammation. Leading irregular lifestyles, following an unbalanced and unhealthy diet, lack of exercise and insufficiency fluids makes the intestines sluggish. Diet also affects the gut microbiome. In fact, the gut microbiome needs fiber, and very often our food lacks this essential nutrient.
What statistics say about yoga and gut health
Eating a Sattvic diet that includes wholesome foods is always helpful. Yoga helps you develop a balanced and positive daily routine which corrects all of these negative factors. Studies have indicated yoga benefits well-being, including stress management, mental and emotional health, healthy eating habits, sleep and overall lifestyle. An 8-week study on the effects of meditation on the body by Sara Lazar found that the brains of subjects are thickened, indicating greater awareness and lower stress. Lower stress means better digestion and gut health.
When the digestive fire (Agni) is ignited through practices like Agni Sar (fire-stimulating cleansing practice) and Sun Salutations, muscles get stronger, lymph flow is stimulated and blood flow promoted. The fascial network is hydrated and more flexible. These are all positive factors that encourage good gut health. Another factor is the Psoas muscle, the strongest hip flexor in the human body. This gets stuck and tense when we are in a state of stress and our breathing gets shallow, we eat mindlessly and our body holds tension. These factors impact gut health drastically. With yoga, it becomes possible to release this state of stress and tightness. Research has shown with regular yoga practice, one can have low cortisol levels. Further studies have also found that practicing yoga for a minimum of three months can lower cortisol levels and perceived stress.
A study from 2010 found that yoga improved mood and anxiety levels. Researchers suggested that this was due to the higher levels of the brain chemical, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). GABA activity tends to be lower in people with anxiety and mood disorders. When these levels are low, stress hormones are higher, affecting digestion greatly.
A good sleep routine, where one goes to bed at more or less the same time everyday and gets 7-8 hours (in adults) of restful sleep is most useful in maintaining good digestion and gut health. This is because the body’s clock works in a set rhythm and gets the much needed rest to be able to break down food, absorb nutrients and balance hormones. The body hits the reset button every night. A John Hopkins study showed that a consistent bedtime yoga routine can improve quality of sleep greatly. Furthermore, when quality of life is good, health is good, and stress and other ailments are at bay.
There are many yoga poses for gut health. New research has also shown us that increased gut inflammation and changes in the gut microbiome has an impact throughout the body. It can contribute to fatigue, cardiovascular diseases and depression. There is sufficient evidence that goes to show how mindfulness practices like meditation and breathing exercises, as well as yoga asanas works towards correcting this while improving gut health, reducing stress and anxiety, and enhancing overall health.
Whether you are suffering from mild bloating, constipation, severe gastrointestinal issues or other health concerns like blood pressure, the root cause could be stress and gut health. The body’s processes start with the gut microbiome, which includes digestion, mood, immunity, stress hormones, etc. Correcting this could go a long way in establishing a healthier you.
Making changes to your diet and lifestyle can also work wonders. Start with including more fresh and nutritious food, following a balanced daily routine and sleeping at the same time everyday. Join a yoga class a few times a week to improve your physical activity, mindfulness and reduce stress levels. When you start making these changes, you’ll begin to notice wonderful changes in your health and well-being.