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Digestive System, nutrition and metabolism

Entries in digestive system (4)


Healing the Total Body: Where Western Anatomy Meets Eastern Spiritual Science

Healing Series, part 9 

Table of Contents:

Digestion connected to emotions

Digestive System

Involuntary muscles controlled by Nervous System

Chakras of sensuality and self-esteem

TCM and Nutrition

Urinary System

(back to the Healing Series)


Digestion connected to emotions

My Digestive System seems to be related to my emotions and my yogic energy. It doesn’t make intuitive sense that it would be connected, but I have proof. It’s an interesting subject that isn’t talked about so openly. If working optimally, my emotional and physical self are definitely more balanced.

In fact, a five day green juice cleanse (very intestinal) forces me to go through the largest range of emotions as they are felt and released. When it's over, I am left with the most clarity in the mind.

When I am most stressed, it's most helpful to breathe into the lower belly for calming. I do this in yoga but also in life. Interestingly, it's all related to the same physical area of the body.

Here is why...

Vagus nerve connects digestive to nervous systems

There is a lot more going on in your belly than abdominal muscles. Our guts (literally) are in the area that has been medically proven to be a second brain, the Enteric Nervous System. Including neurons, neurotransmitters, hormones, your gut is able to learn, remember and produce emotion-based feelings. The two nervous systems are connected through the vagus nerve.

I use my belly's intelligence in yoga, sealing in the energy by activating the internal muscular and energetic locks: Mula bandha, Uddiyana bandha.


Digestive System

The Digestive System organs break down large food molecules into smaller ones where they are absorbed along with minerals and water into the body. Gastrointestinal tract (mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine) and accessory organs (salivary glands, liver, pancreas) all work together.

Gastrointestinal tract

The mouth receives food and mechanically digests it (using the tongue and teeth), mixing it with saliva, which lubricate it and begin digestion. The pharynx is the passageway to the Respiratory System—food and breath both using the same path—and it leads to the esophagus, delivering food to the stomach.

The stomach secretes acids, digestive enzymes and gastric juices such as pepsin and hydrochloric acid to break down proteins, to send to the small intestine for the majority of the digestive process. The pancreas contributes enzymes and attempts to balance the pH by neutralizing acidity. The liver contributes bile (stored in the gall bladder), and also controls carbohydrate metabolism, converting some amino acids into energy. The liver also breaks down fatty acids to be processed in metabolism. In addition, the liver removes drugs and hormones from the blood, excreting them into the bile.

The large intestine is also referred to as the colon. The cecum connects the small to large intestine, where nondigested materials first travel up the ascending colon (right side of abdomen), across through the traverse colon (horizontally, across the top of the abdomen) where it then becomes the descending colon (left side of abdomen). At the bottom of its path, it becomes the sigmoid colon (S-shaped structure that descends downward toward the rectum). The functions of the large intestine are to reabsorb water, ions, vitamins and compact the waste material.


TCM and Nutrition

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) helps to explain digestion as Qi burns in the Digestive System in the Middle Burner together with the Lymphatic System.

Transforming Qi as it moves

It’s about transformation of the Qi, which if happening properly allows movement, growth and health. When Qi moves in the right direction, it’s the basis for the movement of blood, transformation of essence, movement of bodily fluids, digestion of food, absorption of nourishment, excretion of waste, moistening of sinews and bones, moistening of skin and resistance to exterior pathogenic factors. (Source: The Foundations of Chinese Medicine: A Comprehensive Text for Acupuncturists and Herbalists, Maciocia)

Yin-Yang philosophy: Food (yin) is transmuted by metabolic activity (yang) into more substance (tissue) and more energy (heat and metabolic activity).

Nutrition has become an important component for me in relation to digestion in particular. Each day I have the following digestive-enhancing routine:

  • kombucha
  • liquid calcium, containing magnesium
  • Healthy Vata Ayurvedic potion (for calming and digesting)
  • Primal Defense probiotics (for health gut flora)
  • tumeric/ginger tea (antinflammatory, antioxidant and digesting)
  • filtered water
  • vitamin D3 (the liver participates in the activation of vitamin D for use in the body)
  • Cat's Claw (used by indiginous people in South Amerca for digestion, inflammation and wound-healing)