The Connection Between Digestion and Emotions

You may have heard the expression “your gut is your 2nd brain.” This definitely applies in Chinese Medicine as Spleen and Stomach are not only the primary organs of digestion, but are also closely related to the emotions — worry, anxiety and over-thinking are especially connected to Spleen.

And so it follows that if you are experiencing any of these or other emotional upsets, you probably will also present with an upset stomach, diarrhea or constipation, or gas or bloating. Think of the Stomach as being responsible not only for digesting food and beverages, but also for digesting your emotions and thoughts.  It will keep what feeds your soul/spirit and let go of what does not.

When you have experienced any major, life-changing event, such as the loss of a loved one or animal companion or the break-up of a long-term relationship or marriage, grief naturally ensues. And we’ve all experienced this on some level, but what also tends to happen?  Our appetite will most likely decrease or increase significantly, resulting in weight loss or weight gain. If we feel afraid or stuck and unable to move forward — or if we feel alone and unsupported, this can also manifest in the digestive system.

Stuck/unable to let go = constipation, gas or bloating

Fear = craving salty foods

Anger = alternating diarrhea/constipation/IBS

Grief = lack of appetite/no hunger; lack of taste

Worry/Over-thinking = indigestion; gas and bloating; craving sweets

Besides it’s connection to digestion, the Spleen is in charge of the movement of blood in the vessels and it rules the muscles by transporting blood and qi to the tissues and limbs.

With a Spleen imbalance, the mind can become unable to focus, concentrate, remember, or study, as thoughts cannot be held in their proper place. The mind may simply race uncontrollable from one thought to another. Contrarily, it can become stuck and immobile, rigid and stubborn. Obsessive thinking, incessant worry, frustration, anxiety and depression are expressions of stagnancy in the physical body.  The expression “venting the spleen” means giving expression (movement) to pent up anger. There are few causes of anxiety and frustration greater than being unable to remember, feeling lost and confused. It is as if the storehouse of memory is unavailable.  Like the food and drink we consume, experience is virtually useless if we cannot digest it, glean its wisdom and put it to use.[1]

There have been a number of excellent books written in the Western world about the connection between the foods we eat and choose to eat, based on our emotions. But how amazing it is to have a system of medicine that formally connects and addresses our head brain and thoughts with our gut brain and digestion.

Chinese Medicine can help us to be more aware of what we’re choosing to eat and why we’re eating it — and to also notice how our emotions and food choices impact our processing and absorption of nutrients.  And how we also need to “process” and digest our emotions — and that may be a huge part of our healing.

There are specific acupuncture points that can be used along the Spleen, Stomach, Liver and Heart meridians to treat mental/emotional conditions and digestive conditions simultaneously.  Likewise, a Chinese nutrition consult can help you identify the foods that will help to heal your emotions via your digestion. To learn more about these foods and acupuncture points and how they can help you, please contact us to schedule a 45-minute evaluation.

[1] https://www.acupuncturepathways.com/news/2017/7/27/the-earth-element-spleen-and-stomach